Imagine grabbing a bite of your favorite candy to taste the garbage. The rich and bold flavor of coffee is replaced by cigarette smoke. A woman in the DC area says this is what she experiences months after having COVID-19.
Parosmia is the term for this bizarre long-term COVID symptom. It is a condition in which your sense of smell is distorted, which also has an impact on taste. Doctors say it affects up to 10% of people who contract the virus.
“Then things started to taste terrible… like rotten garbage. It was awful,” said Colleen Herrmann.
Herrmann said she had a mild case of COVID in February. When the infection cleared, she lost her sense of taste and smell. But when his taste returned, things turned bad.
Her favorite foods suddenly took on a different taste.
“I really like red peppers, green peppers, yellow peppers and they taste somewhere like a mix of wet dog and dirty socks,” she said. “I opened my absolute favorite wine and tasted it and it tasted like grass.”
Looking for clues, the South Riding, Va. Mother found a support group on Facebook with stories from thousands of others like her.
“And there are people in this group who had to go to the hospital and [get], you know, feeding tubes because they can’t eat because their taste is so distorted. It can be very difficult, ”said Hermann.
There is no cure or treatment for parosmia.
“It’s really lonely, isolating and frustrating because people don’t understand the impact,” said Dr. Danielle Reed, of the world-renowned Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.
Reed is studying the phenomenon, but said scientists still don’t know what causes it.
“It’s like the switch goes off with a smell. And then when the switch starts to come back on and people start to recover, it doesn’t come back properly,” Reed said.
No one can say exactly how long the symptoms will last, but the condition appears to be temporary.
“There is hope. A lot of people are improving and coming back to where they were before,” Reed said.
Reed said most people make a full recovery within a year.
Herrmann said she hopes things will get back to normal soon so that she can once again enjoy her favorite dishes and go out to dinner without being tormented by her taste buds.
“It’s been seven months for me and it’s a bit long. You’ve got a little, you know, a little bit finished now, at least mentally… But here we are,” she said.
Herrmann said she wanted to share her story so others know they are not alone as researchers uncover the root of this unusual side effect.
Coffee, chocolate, eggs, and meat are all common triggers for people with parosmia, the researchers said.
But simple things like bread and water can even be problematic for some.
There is no medicine to treat it, but some doctors recommend scent therapy in which the patient smells different essential oils to try and trigger damaged nerves in the nose and retrain the brain.