IT was on day six of Covid that it went, just like that – I could no longer smell. Later that day my taste followed and for the first time in my life, I realised how much I’d taken my senses for granted.

I had heard several patients describe their anosmia (loss of smell) before but I hadn’t delved deep into what that felt like for them. Like how did it really feel? In medicine we look for signs and symptoms to help us problem solve to get to a diagnosis. It’s a very different experience when you find yourself as the patient though, wanting to understand and have someone validate that what you’re experiencing is normal.

So much of the world is known to us through our senses – what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch. These give us the experience of life itself. When you suddenly lose two of those five senses, you lose the ability to enjoy things that not only bring you comfort but also bring you joy – something we need a lot of right now.

A recent study showed that almost 86% of people with mild to moderate symptoms of Covid reported a loss or altered sense of taste or smell. Thankfully, most people do recover within a few weeks, but in up to 15% of cases, it can take several months. In a small number of cases there is no return of the senses – but I continue to live in hope that I will be able to inhale scents and enjoy flavours again soon.

The virus affects the airways and so causes inflammation and congestion in the nose and throat. This can affect the nerves that run through these areas, altering smell which is closely linked to taste.

I have seen many viral online hacks circulating that promise the return of smell and taste but sadly there is no evidence behind these claims. The famous one is burning an orange and eating the inside of it mixed with brown sugar. Please do not try this. There is a reason we don’t eat burnt food – it is not healthy and contains toxic chemicals. There is some evidence to try “scent training” which involves inhaling strong scents such as cinnamon, citrus or mint for 10-20 seconds every day whilst trying to remember what they smelt like before. However, the truth is that it is a waiting game; in this time, it really isn’t a pleasant experience, but it is important to maintain the hope for recovery.

Loss of smell and taste can alter appetite, cause nausea and can also alter mood. I personally miss the familiar smell of my young kids the most, something I never even acknowledged as such a source of comfort before. I enjoy perfumes, flowers, candles, and now it all smells bland. For someone who is a foodie, it’s hard to accept that curry, chocolate and wine all tastes like paper. I appreciate that in the grand scheme of things, these symptoms may seem insignificant, but long-term complications of Covid are impacting people in different ways, and validating each other’s experiences is important.

In this pandemic, we are all relying on small pockets of comfort, so for anyone else who is currently unable to enjoy things because you are left with side effects from Covid, know that you are not alone.