For COVID-19 patients, there is one final note: approximately 90% of COVID-19 patients experience improvement in their ability to smell about 4 weeks after the initial diagnosis. So there is hope. Since there are many different reasons for smell and taste loss, we encourage you to visit an ENT specialist for a smell and taste analysis with a thorough examination involving your nasal passages and mouth. The examination results will help the specialist create a patient-specific plan of action. This week’s Health Talk was written by David R. Charnock, MD FACS, clinical director of ENT & Audiology Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Allergy, Head & Neck Surgery at Rutland Regional Medical Center.
Smell-retraining techniques help the brain create new connections or pathways around the damaged nerve area. The technique helps to re-orient the brain and interpret the odor molecules from the nose. Our brain must distinguish between a vast array of smells within a single scent and in the process, might trigger the patient’s own past memories of how something should smell. If you still can’t smell, you might have issues with the nerve receptors for smell. Some viruses can damage these receptors. If this happens, there are smell-retraining techniques that might help restore one’s sense of smell.
A variety of scents are used in smell-retraining such as rose oil, lemon, orange peel, peanut butter, lavender and the like. A list of items the patient is familiar with are used so they “know” what they are smelling, not guessing. The retraining takes time, but the time is well worth it for the patients who successfully regain their ability to smell. So what do you do if you notice difficulty with your ability to taste or smell? Consider gently and safely clearing out your nasal passages using normal saline nasal spray or a Nettie pot. These will help clear virus and bacteria along with heavy mucus, and offer some natural decongestant effect.
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