As we approach a year since the first restrictions were introduced in this country, COVID-19 has so far affected more than 3.5 million people in the UK, with the total toll of people dying with the disease currently at more than 93,000.
With the vaccination programme now being rolled out across the UK, there is hope that we will start to get the disease under control. However, with the country still remaining in lockdown and cases still high, we still need to remain vigilant about COVID-19 and its symptoms.
The disease appears to affect different people in different ways and symptoms seem to vary from person to person. Some people infected with the virus experience no symptoms at all, but those with symptoms may experience a fever, continuous cough, shortness of breath, body aches, sore throat, and loss of appetite.
As we know, the severity of symptoms can depend significantly depending on a person’s age or overall health.
One symptom which has also been experienced by those with COVID-19 is loss or reduced sense of smell. A recent study showed that 54.7 per cent of patients with COVID-19 suffered from hyposmia (reduced sense of smell) and anosmia (total loss of smell) was experienced by 36.6 per cent of patients.
However, looking at this symptom in particular, there are things you can do at home to help recover your sense of smell. Studies have shown that ‘smell training’, or olfactory training as it is known, can benefit some sufferers and help them recover their sense of smell through repeated short-term exposure to particular odours.
Smell training is essentially actively sniffing the same selected scents every day, spending around 20 seconds on each scent and really concentrating on what you are smelling. It is recommended by doctors and anyone can do it at home by following these simple steps:
- Select your scents – most kits available to purchase use essential oils like rose, lemon and eucalyptus, but there is no reason why you can’t choose your own oils based on your preferences. You could also even use familiar scents from around your home, such as ground coffee or spices.
- Hold your chosen scent close to your nose (approximately one inch away), close your eyes, imagine the smell and concentrate hard on it. Take gentle sniffs for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Repeat the same exercise but with your eyes open.
- After 20 seconds, move the scent away from you and take some deep breaths before moving on to the next chosen smell and repeat as above.
The training should be undertaken at least twice a day. You could put the scents next to your bed to remind you to do your training first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
To keep a track of your smell training you can use this simple self-assessment tool, which enables you to note down any developments in changes to your sense of smell, recording if or when progress is being made.
However, according to researchers at the University College London Hospital, it is not yet known whether the reduction in or loss of sense of smell will be permanent. It is thought that recovery could take at least 18 months and patients have been seen who may partially recover but, in addition, experienced a distorted sense of smell.
This study revealed that the recovery rate ranges from 75 to 85 per cent. Whilst the majority of patients reported that their sense of smell returned within 14 days, more than 15 per cent had not fully regained it after 60 days.
An important thing to remember if you are suffering from anosmia is that you will need to take some extra safety precautions in and around your home as you won’t be able to smell potentially dangerous smells. These could include fires, poisonous fumes, leaking gas and food that has gone off. Take a look at this safety advice for more information about how you can keep yourself and others around you safe.
If you think you might be suffering from this symptom or any other symptoms linked to COVID-19, click here for information about what procedures you should follow.