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When the pandemic first hit, everyone was focusing on the symptoms of a new, continuous cough and fever. But a few months into the unprecedented global event, in May 2020, the UK officially added loss of smell and taste to the list of registered symptoms as it became increasingly clear this was a sure-tell sign of the virus. While most cases of Covid remain mild and patients recover on their own, some people continue suffering the symptoms long after contracting the virus, something which has grown to be named ‘long Covid’.
Estimates made by the ZOE Covid tracker app suggest around 12 percent of UK Covid patients suffer symptoms for longer than 30 days.
In total one in 200 have reported the effects of the virus lasting for more than 90 days.
Losing your sense of smell is one symptom known to linger, and around one in five people continued to notice a reduced sense eight weeks after catching Covid.
While it may seem harmless, not being able to taste actually takes a lot away from life and can be very frustrating for people suffering long Covid.
One study suggests a method called smell training can help sufferers regain their sense after Covid.
The study, published in April from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in conjunction with many other global universities showed smell training is a far superior method for regaining a sense of smell than corticosteroids.
These are a type of drug used to lower inflammation within the body.
Smell training involves sniffing at least four different distinctive odours twice per day for several months.
This means smelling easily identifiable, familiar smells such as oranges, mint, garlic or coffee.
Doing this is believed to be much more effective at building the sense of smell back up after it’s been lost.
Smell loss expert Professor Carl Philpott from UEA’s Norwich Medical School explained: “Corticosteroids are a class of drug that lowers inflammation in the body.
“Doctors often prescribe them to help treat conditions such as asthma, and they have been considered as a therapeutic option for smell loss caused by COVID-19.
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“What we found was that there is very little evidence that corticosteroids will help with smell loss.
“And because they have well known potential adverse side effects, our advice is that they should not be prescribed as a treatment for post-viral smell loss.”
The steroids’ side effects include fluid retention, high blood pressure and problems with mood swings and behaviour.
Professor Philpott also noted that most people who experience smell loss as a result of the virus will regain the sense “spontaneously”, but noted smell training could aid things along.
He added: “It has emerged as a cheap, simple and side-effect-free treatment option for various causes of smell loss, including COV|ID-19.
“It aims to help recovery based on neuro-plasticity – the brain’s ability to reorganise itself to compensate for a change or injury.”
This isn’t the only study to suggest smell training works, and several others repeated over the last 10 years suggest that consistent short-term exposure to smells may help people to recover it – in particular those who have lost the sense as a result of common viruses.
On a more optimistic note, the professor added that research shows 90 percent of people who lose their sense of smell from Covid will fully recover it within six months.
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