Covid-19 survivors who still have sense of smell struggles weeks after recovering from the illness are being urged to try and retrain their brains.
This is a process that involves sniffing different odours over a period of months to help them recognise different smells.
Researchers believe undergoing ‘smell training’ is a simple alternative to being treated with steroids and free from potential side effects.
“Luckily most people who experience smell loss as a result of Covid-19 will regain their sense of smell spontaneously,” said Professsor Carl Philpott, from the UK’s University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, who was part of group of international experts reviewing current evidence.
In a paper published in the journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology, the researchers highlighted the ‘smell training’ cure. This involves sniffing four things that have a easily identifiable and familiar smell – for example, oranges, mint, garlic or coffee – twice a day for several months.
Prof Philpott said research shows that 90 per cent of people fully recover their sense of smell after six months. If it doesn’t return, he says ‘smell training’ helps to retrain the brain’s smell pathways to recoganise different odours.
“It aims to help recovery based on neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to reorganise itself to compensate for a change or injury,” he said.
An alternative use of steroids can cause side effects such as fluid retention, high blood pressure, as well as problems with mood swings and behaviour.
A loss of smell is one of the main symptoms of a coronavirus infection, along with a fever and a persistent cough.
Around one in five people report they are still having problems eight weeks after falling ill.
Scientists are only starting to grasp the vast array of health problems caused by the novel coronavirus, some of which may have lingering effects on patients and health systems for years to come, according to doctors and infectious disease experts.
Besides the respiratory issues that leave patients gasping for breath, the virus that causes Covid-19 attacks many organ systems, as reported earlier in the GDN.
The virus can also cause neurological complications that range from headache and dizziness, alongside the loss of taste or smell, to seizures and confusion.
A Bahrain medic has described Covid-19 as a ‘bizarre disease’ with debilitating long-term symptoms, post recovery.
According to Bahrain Specialist Hospital (BSH) pulmonologist and specialist Dr Jakeer Hussain Shaik, a lot remains to be known and understood about Covid-19.
“When symptoms persist beyond three weeks of illness, they are termed as Post Covid-19 Syndrome or Long Covid-19 Syndrome and this condition lasts for one to six months with almost all organ systems affected,” he told the GDN earlier this year.
And, women in their 40s and 50s appear more at risk of long-term problems following discharge from hospital after Covid-19, with many suffering months of persistent symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness and ‘brain fog’, two UK studies found.