The year 2020 was marked by the beginning of the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus. The disease, unknown until then, already has more than 16 million confirmed cases and 454,000 deaths in Brazil alone. THE Covid-19 it affects different people in different ways. Among the most recurrent symptoms are: fever, dry cough, tiredness, loss of smell and taste, shortness of breath, sore throat, headache.
In addition, there are asymptomatic cases, in which people are infected but feel nothing. This issue of symptoms and also the degree of severity of the disease varies from person to person. One symptom that is common and that is being talked about a lot in this pandemic period is the loss of smell.
Before understanding a little more about the loss of smell, it is important to remember what smell is and its relevance to human beings.
What is smell?
Smell is one of the five basic senses – smell, taste, touch, sight and hearing – and it refers to the ability of beings to pick up odors from the environment. In man, the main organ responsible for performing this function is the nose.
In most situations, as we are already used to smelling the different scents around us, we don’t give it that much value. However, it is interesting to understand that smell influences other senses and its loss causes some agony. Can you imagine being 24 hours without smelling anything? You won’t smell the strong smell of coffee in the morning, the smell of toothpaste when brushing your teeth, or even the shampoo or soap during the shower.
In addition to the absence of these smells that are already part of people’s daily lives, the loss of smell also implies a change in our taste buds. Because the senses of smell and taste work together to better identify the taste of food. Through olfactory cell stimuli we notice the taste of food. A classic example that proves this idea is when we have a stuffy nose, the taste of food changes.
Covid and the loss of smell
Another situation that causes the loss of smell is covid. Diagnosed as one of the characteristic symptoms of contamination by the new coronavirus, the loss of this sense occurs abruptly and intensely.
According to a survey published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, about 86% of patients who had covid-19 in the mild form had a loss of smell. According to the survey, covid cases considered mild are those in which there was no evidence of viral pneumonia or oxygen loss or if the patient can recover at home.
This impact generates not only total or partial disappearance of the olfactory capacity, but also difficulty in correctly distinguishing odors, leading people to smell non-existent odors or confuse them. In other words, within this problem, there are different types of olfaction alterations that receive specific names. Check out.
- Anosmia: complete absence of smell. It can be a problem acquired throughout life or a congenital one, when the person is born without this sense;
- Hyposmia: reduced sense of smell;
- Parosmia: distorted smell.
As with most symptoms of covid and other illnesses, the loss of smell usually resolves soon after the patient heals. However, what science has already noticed is that part of those infected by this virus remain for a longer period, even months, for example, without this meaning. According to the study mentioned above, patients recover their sense of smell, on average, after 18 to 21 days. However, about 5% of people have not recovered in 6 months.
In order to combat this sequel, there are already worldwide techniques and protocols used by otolaryngologists in any case. In addition, a series of exercises are performed, a kind of physiotherapy, which help to combat the loss of smell.
One of the protocols followed begins by applying a test at the University of Pennsylvania, in the United States, based on four cards with 40 different odors.
Through this chart, it is possible to identify the smell that was lost and monitor the patient’s evolution. If the problem persists, it is recommended to carry out olfactory training, which consists of a set of techniques demonstrated and proven in scientific studies as being beneficial for those who lost their sense of smell after a virus or injury.
Training after loss of smell
Olfactory rehabilitation corresponds to inhaling different odors exercises, concentrating the mind on these smells. The goal is to make the olfactory nerves stimulated through this technique.
To perform the exercises, it is necessary to have a kit with four bottles containing types of oils: rose, lemon, clove and eucalyptus. Despite opting for these, other substances can be used. Kits with four things available in your own home have also been recommended by doctors, such as coffee, washing powder, oregano or chopped chocolate.
It is interesting to label the bottles with the name of each substance to facilitate identification and keep them closed in the refrigerator. In addition, it is recommended to wet pieces of cotton with each liquid instead of putting the oil directly into the bottle. In this way, the odor is preserved longer and possible skin irritations are avoided.
When using, open the bottle and hold it close to your nose. Inhale gently for about 20 seconds and during that time focus on the activity. Keep your mind on what you are doing and what you smell.
Close the bottle after 20 seconds and take a few breaths of fresh air. Afterwards, go to the next scents and do the same way you did the first one. Gently inhale for 20 seconds the odor inside the bottle, close it, breathe fresh air and so on. It is recommended to repeat this exercise at least twice a day.
signs of improvement
The evolution of people’s framework occurs gradually and individually. Even if you don’t smell any of the first few days, continue with the exercises. Experts have already proven that training is the best way to repair your olfactory loss. Patients who took this training did better at identifying and distinguishing smells than those who did nothing.
ENT from São Paulo
If you are included in the group of people who have a loss of smell, know that the Otorrino Paulista medical clinic is at your disposal to clarify doubts or carry out treatments. All our otolaryngologists are able to assist and assist you.
Schedule your appointment now! Click here and come take care of your health right now.
By Maria Eduarda Vieira – Speak! UFF