Katie's story

Katie lost her sense of smell and taste at 31 weeks' pregnant. Nearly two years on, she shares how her 'Covid smell' continues to impact negatively on her life.

The 'Covid 19' smell was really challenging as a new mother

Parosmia has meant that Katie could not smell whether her baby's nappy needed changing and has caused physical changes too.

At 31 weeks pregnant, I contracted Covid-19 in August 2020. My symptoms were moderate; I felt very unwell but did not require hospital treatment, but a few days into the infection, I completely lost my taste and smell. At the time, I thought this was the worst possible outcome - now I would give anything to be unable to smell. 

My taste and smell began to return within a few weeks and by the time I gave birth to my son in the October of that year, I felt like I was back to normal. However, only five days after my son was born, I began to notice that certain things tasted odd – Coca-Cola tasted like perfume, McDonald’s fries tasted smoky and stale. It was powerful enough to make me gag whilst I ate. 

Over time this spread to everything, almost everything has what I now call the ‘Covid’ smell including shampoo, fresh air, my baby’s nappies. Eating has become a chore; I dread meal times and the intense nausea from the rancid smells and tastes. I am surviving mostly on plain boiled potatoes, bottled water and an assortment of vitamins.

It has not been a completely negative experience, though. I quickly began researching my symptoms and discovered I had a condition known as parosmia and this led me to AbScent. I found their support page on Facebook which has been massively helpful, and truly may have saved me from a concerning amount of weight loss. The tips I have received from this support network which have helped me are:

  • Drinking Dr. Pepper – a large portion of those suffering with parosmia in the Facebook Group are able to taste Dr Pepper as normal. I am one of those people and this has enabled me to actually enjoy a drink whilst also managing some calories and energy for the day.
  • Hot sauce (or any manageable spice or condiment) – by using hot sauce, peppercorn or other strong flavourings I have been able to mask the taste of some foods and this has enabled me to get a somewhat more varied diet.
  • Cold food – for some reason, many of us find heated food to be considerably worse-tasting than cold food. Let hot food go cold or try eating savoury foods which are served cold like sausage rolls, deli pasta and deli cheeses, salad etc.

Parosmia can be isolating, it has impacted on my mental health significantly, especially whilst caring for a newborn baby and suffering sleep deprivation. Being unable to get the nutrients I need has taken a toll on my body. I am losing lots of hair, my lips are dry and chapped, my skin is dry. And on top of this, family and friends who haven’t been through it can’t possibly understand how it feels, and can often be quite dismissive.

I think research into the treatment and cure of smell disorders is so important for the mental health of sufferers but also for their physical safety; being unable to smell a gas leak or taste if a food is rotten could have terrible consequences. If I ever recover my sense of smell, I will never take it for granted again, and I certainly won't be fussy about what foods I will eat and enjoy!