"I’m a Paediatric Dietician working within the NHS, and at the end of March 2020 I was redeployed to support on the adult Covid wards. I caught Covid pretty early on (or what I suspect was Covid, as tests weren’t available at the time).
At first I was quite well with Covid, it just felt like a head cold, then after a few days I completely lost my sense of smell. At the start of the pandemic, smell and taste loss weren’t listed as a key symptom, and so mine caught me off-guard.
Living with parosmia
I had total anosmia for a period of time but after about six to eight weeks I got about 50 per cent of my smell back, and I thought that was it, things were getting better… I put it to the back of my mind and carried on with life until six weeks later something strange with my smell and taste started happening. I remember opening the fridge one morning and there was this horrendous smell. That was the beginning of my parosmia.
The parosmia made food taste of mould, fruity sewage, ammonia and sulphur – it was just horrendous and I couldn’t escape it.
For eight or nine weeks, everything seemed to be a trigger – including things like toothpaste and my body wash. Things gradually started to improve but I think that went hand in hand with me realising what my main triggers were and avoiding them.
Coping with a new way of eating
Being unable to smell and taste properly, and then developing parosmia, inevitably changed the foods that I could eat. I think at one stage I could count on my hands the number of foods that I was eating. I’d say that even now my diet has changed somewhat from before
Because of my profession and knowing what I was missing out on I adapted my diet quite quickly. I replaced meat with lentils and pulses and dairy with plant based alternatives. I avoided onions and garlic and replaced with chilli and fennel. I found myself appreciating texture a lot more, and focusing on that as a way to get enjoyment out of food. I used the opportunity to try new foods and I’m eating foods now that I never ate before. I’m exploring different ways of cooking and being more creative now my parosmia has eased. I’m really trying to make something good out of it.
I sometimes wonder if I am almost recovered or if I have just adapted to the new normal. I question if I am truly tasting a food like I used to and I often get caught off guard with an ingredient that gives me the ‘Covid’ smell and taste. I do deem myself very lucky that I am starting to find pleasure in eating again and I can smell flowers and fresh laundry now which make me so happy.
For the first couple of weeks of my smell loss, I was quite chilled telling myself if will get better but as time went on I started to get more anxious so starting researching online and found AbScent. When I developed parosmia and was really struggling mentally, hearing from an ENT specialist in one of their webinars that parosmia was a sign of recovery and of nerves regenerating was really heartening and gave me hope that things would get better.
I started researching different scientific papers about Smell Training, and made my own kits at home. I have been Smell Training on and off for about a year.
I had a period when I lost motivation with Smell Training – but after watching a few more of AbScent’s webinars and hearing the scientists on there, I just thought it was really important to go continue it.
It’s been a rollercoaster, emotionally and mentally, it’s been really hard. Especially as not only is food a massive enjoyment in my life, as it is in most people’s, but it’s also my job. I was petrified, I was really scared that things wouldn’t improve, and when I had the parosmia my anxiety levels went through the roof. My saving grace was AbScent – I wouldn’t have got by without it.
I think AbScent have been amazing. What they’ve managed to do and how they’ve supported that community – and at the pace they’ve kept up with it. I think what they’ve done is incredible.
On the whole I have remained quite positive about my recovery, and I think it’s important to stay hopeful that it will get better."