Edirector’s note: Julie Walsh-Messinger is a clinical psychologist who studies the effects of long-term olfactory loss. His research has focused on the loss of smell in people with severe and persistent mental illness, but since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic he has also studied odor loss caused by COVID-19. In this interview, talks about how COVID-19 can affect your sense of smell, the long-term effects of odor loss, and the resources that can help you.
How does it affect the sense of smell COVID-19?
COVID-19 is not the only virus that affects our olfactory capacity, but it is unique in its way of doing so. For example, the common cold causes an inflammatory response in your nose and it accumulates mucus that reduces your ability to smell, turning it into a dull sense.
The only thing COVID-19 has is that it is not actually nasal congestion or the nasal inflammatory response that causes odor loss. The virus actually crosses the blood-brain barrier and enters the nervous system. It affects the nervous system and the neural connections that are needed to detect and interpret the smell.
How does this affect people in the long run?
COVID-19 affects the nervous system i sometimes it translates into a deep loss or a complete inability to smell. Some people regaining its ability to smell in a few days or weeks, but for some people it takes much longer than it lasts. Scientists are still unsure of how many people lose their ability to smell completely, a condition known as anosmia.
This is taking its toll on people who don’t have their sense of smell, sometimes for months, or even almost a year at the moment. It can have real consequences. For example, if you don’t smell smoke, rely on a smoke detector to tell you there’s a fire. It also affects the quality of life. The food no longer tastes good because how you perceive taste is really a combination of smell, taste and even sense of touch. Some people report weight loss due to loss of appetite and cannot enjoy the things they have previously found enjoyable.
What are some of the functions of our sense of smell that we often don’t think about?
Our sense of smell is very important for daily functions. There is research that suggests that our sense of smell can influence ours attraction for certain people unconsciously. It’s one of the ways we select mates that don’t resemble us genetically, which can be an advantage for breeding. It can also help us detect fear in others, which is important for survival.
It is a sense that subtly drives many of the decisions we make on a daily basis, but we are not aware of.
What resources are there for people affected by anemia?
Resources are available for people with loss of taste and smell, although some are not just related to COVID-19. He Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research is a group of scientists who met very quickly in the spring of 2020 to study the effects of loss of smell and taste. You can participate in our research so we can learn more about what is causing this and how to deal with it. There are links to many other resources on the spot.
There are also people and organizations that train in smell. Odor training it essentially makes you smell the same smells over and over again so you can retrain your body’s ability to detect and identify that smell. We are optimistic that the sense of smell will reappear for some of the people who lose their sense of smell for several months. One of the groups involved in odor training is the non-profit organization Abscent. It was not configured specifically for patients with COVID-19, but has been a pioneer in olfactory training.