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How Does Smell Retraining Help Long COVID Patients?

by Brett Mills

People with long COVID can suffer from various symptoms. Some find that they have an impaired sense of smell and taste after their initial infection which never returns back to normal.

Some people simply lose their regular ability to smell and taste; others find that once pleasant smells or tastes are now unpleasant to them. If your doctor has checked that you don't have an underlying physical problem behind these changes to your senses, then you might have to wait and hope that they come back naturally.

However, you can speed up the process by trying smell retraining. If you can improve your sense of smell, then your ability to taste is also likely to improve.

How does smell retraining work?

You Choose a Set of Base Scents

At the start of the retraining process, you will choose a base set of scents. You might follow the recommendations of your smell disorder specialist. Or, you might include a scent that you particularly like.

In either case, your base scents will have smells that you find pleasant. They won't trigger any allergies or reactions. Many people use essential oils here which have stronger odors; however, your specialist might recommend other things you can smell such as foods.

You Start Daily Smell Tests

Smell retraining therapy takes time. You need to persevere with the program and do smell tests to your recommended schedule. For example, your smell disorder doctor might tell you to run two tests a day. Here, you will spend a few seconds smelling your oils or items in turn.

You'll also be asked to use mindfulness techniques here. As well as smelling scents, you also think about each smell as you sniff it. You think about how it would normally smell. Trying to differentiate between your base scents in this way helps retrain your brain to make better connections.

You might not notice any odors when you begin retraining; however, every session you have stimulates your olfactory receptors and encourages your brain to boost its impaired smell identification pathways. If all goes well, then you should notice an improvement in your ability to smell and taste.

You Expand Your Base Scents

If your smell and taste start to improve after running daily sniff tests on your base scents, then your smell disorder specialist might tweak the scents you use.

For example, if you start to smell a base scent, then they might switch it for a new one. As your sense of smell improves, they might introduce more subtle smells. These smells help hone olfactory performance by making this system work harder to identify an odor.

For more information on long-lasting COVID treatment, contact a professional near you.