You get Covid-19 and your sense of smell disappears like a switch has been flicked. You taste and smell nothing. Then after a week or two, sometimes longer, things start to improve and you feel wonderful that your sense of smell is coming back. So far, so good.
Then, anywhere between a few weeks to several months later, you start to smell strange odours - smells like smoke that you know just aren’t there. You may notice that your sense of smell deteriorates and you start to smell rotten, sweet, burning smells everywhere. Sometimes this is worse than others, certain foods or specific smells are too disgusting to bear - you are experiencing parosmia and it’s very intense.
This is a pattern we see with many Covid-19 patients. At the first point of recovery many people report being "cured", but research has shown that enthusiasm for this improvement can be a bit optimistic. In one study, over 90 percent of people who were assessed after six months still experienced changes to their sense of smell, even though they felt fine.
Rapid changes in the sense of smell are a common feature: your experience of smell, whether just not very good or full on parosmia, might suddenly switch off. Then come back on again. Your ability to smell anything comes and goes, as well as the level of parosmia.
For many people, it’s tempting to blame the relapse on a particular event. But what we know about the virus suggests this is a common pattern - smell loss, smell regained, parosmia - that will happen naturally without a cause. This pattern was experienced by people who had Covid-19 long before the vaccine was available.
You won’t have parosmia for ever - encouragingly it’s recognised as part of the recovery process. In the meantime, there are things you can do to manage the impact, and smell training will support your recovery.
Click through to the parosmia page for more information about managing parosmia.