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What it’s like to lose sense of smell, taste due to COVID

‘When I smell it ... it smells like burnt tires’
Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 1:12 PM EDT
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(CNN) – While a cough, shortness of breath and fever have characterized COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also lists “new loss of taste or smell” as one of the common symptoms, too.

Some of those suffering from that symptom say they can feel its effects even months after their original diagnosis.

“The chicken itself, ugh, it’s almost nauseating,” said Emily Welsh after taking a whiff.

“When I smell it now, it smells like burnt tires,” said Samira Jafari, who’s still trying to get her sense of smell back.

In a July study published on the JAMA Network, researchers found about 90% of patients surveyed who lost their sense of smell or taste improved or recovered within a month.

But nearly 11% said that the symptom was unchanged or worse over the same period.

“I went from no smell to like maybe 2 to 3 weeks of mild smells returning,” Jafari said. “Then, the smell went from returning gradually, slowly, mildly to just taking a very bad turn.”

For Welsh, her altered sense of smell assaults her at every turn.

“It’s been about 3 weeks since I’ve been smelling that burning plastic smell when I eat or shower, brush my teeth,” she said.

Jafari said she knows the feeling.

“You go through that maybe it’s just a weird day. Maybe something is just spoiled. Maybe the coffee is rancid and then you realize it’s not,” she said. “I thought there was really something going on in my house. I really thought something died in my garage.”

While we continue to learn more about COVID-19, Researchers say more studies are needed to determine how the virus impacts our senses.

One study published over the summer in the journal eLife found that people who tested positive for COVID-19 are 27 times more likely to lose their sense of smell than those who tested negative, making it more of an indicator of the virus can other symptoms, like a fever.

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