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Don’t look for 'quick fix' to regain sense of smell after having COVID-19, doctor says

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Posted at 3:00 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 15:00:29-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — There are different stages to loss of smell, but what is most commonly reported as a COVID-19 symptom is a complete loss of smell or anosmia.

“COVID certainly has brought the loss of smell back into kind of the general," said Dr. Eugene Chang, a surgeon-scientist and the vice-chair of the University of Arizona otolaryngology department. "Discussion of things, so you know people who lose their sense of smell typically are pretty quiet about it, you don't really hear that much about it. But now we know that the loss of smell is one of the first symptoms that can present with COVID- 19 infection."

Chang said viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 are probably one of the most common causes of decreased smell because viruses typically enter through the nose.

“It creates inflammation or swelling and so your body sends signals saying hey let's bring all the cells to the forefront and fight this virus so that it doesn't replicate and that doesn't turn into a bigger infection,” said Chang.

Ultimately, Chang says it is your body’s immune response that directly causes that loss of smell.

“And this inflammation in essence in trying to kill the virus sometimes kills either the olfactory cells that are responsible for the sense of smell, or it causes a lot of inflammation and swelling around the nose and the sinuses,” said Chang.

It takes about three to four weeks for your body and your system to reset and repair to gain a sense of smell again. Chang says there really isn’t another way to regain your sense of smell, therefore try to avoid gimmicks or treatments that claim to do so. It is all up to your body to heal.

“When you get that taken away it's pretty horrible because you can't smell things that you used to love to smell. And then, a lot of our perception of taste is also related to smell too. So when you get that sense of smell taken away from you, I think that leads to a lot of desperation and sometimes depression among people and they're looking for a quick fix,” said Chang.

He says something that might help, but still not brings back your smell, is training your nose so you can recognize the same smells. Having a loss of smell can sometimes cause the neurons to wire a little differently when trying to heal.

This story was first reported by Taja Davis at KGUN.

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