Can’t smell because of COVID-19? Retraining your nose might work, experts say

PHOENIX – If you’ve had COVID-19, chances are you lost your sense of smell, at least temporarily.

Losing the sense of smell and taste is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19. A recent study of more than 2,500 COVID-19 patients published in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that 74% reported loss of smell.

For many, olfaction – the ability to smell – returns after a few days or weeks. In the study, 75% to 85% of the patients had recovered their sense of smell within two months. However, some people feel the lingering effects for much longer.

Dr. Janice Johnston with Redirect Health in metro Phoenix told ABC15 that sufferers are trying to find relief through smell therapy.

“The new term for it is smell therapy or physical therapy for your nose, which is a cute way to phrase that,” Johnston said. “What that means is, where you try to train the neurons that interpret those smells to learn again. And how do you do that? You can smell things that have a real distinct odor … say roses or eucalyptus or herbs or essential oils. As you are smelling them, try to envision what you’re smelling and try to teach your brain what that is.”

If smell therapy doesn’t work, she said, other treatments are being developed.

Dr. David Rosen, an otolaryngologist at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, said alpha lipoic acid, vitamin A supplements and over-the-counter steroid nasal sprays also could help, according to the Health Nexus.

In this video, Cronkite News reporter Jordan Spurgeon explains smell therapy and how your brain has to retrain its sense of smell after losing it to COVID-19.

Cronkite News has partnered with ABC15 Arizona to expand the station’s Health Insider series, which provides expert advice and insights into health topics. Cronkite News is experimenting with storytelling tools and techniques to help explain the issues.