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Wednesdays with Whitney: Covid's Impact on Senses

It happened--I lost my sense of taste and smell. The two dreaded COVID symptoms we have all heard about and are often most curious about, I know I was. It is one of the first things people ask me about when they hear I had COVID. Today I will dive a little deeper into what it was like and share some tips based on what helped me get through it.

After enjoying a front-porch-dropped Thanksgiving dinner (pie included), I went to bed reminiscing on the highlight of my day which was my Thanksgiving meal, and was honestly feeling fortunate that I had not lost my smell or taste yet, three days in. I woke up that Friday morning and took a couple of bites of a donut (that had also been a front porch drop), hmm, was it bland or? Sip of my coffee, wait, what? Huge inhale of my coffee, oh no! Grabbed a candle, nope, nothing. NO! I had lost my taste and smell, just like that.

How weird it was to take an exaggerated inhale of white vinegar and literally smell nothing. I didn’t finish my donut (gasp) and it took me about 45 minutes to eat my scrambled eggs and toast later that morning. As I went through the next several days, I was baffled by how odd it was to not smell or taste. We had tacos and the only indication they were spicy was that my lips were burning. And what a disappointment to take an inhale of fresh laundry to smell nothing.

I wouldn’t say that I lost my appetite, thankfully. Though I will say that the enjoyment of planning and prepping meals was diminished. I learned to embrace the texture of food and to visualize (if that’s the right word) what I was tasting and smelling. While some smells I admit I did not miss, it was alarming in a sense to know I could not smell smoke or if food was sour.

I now have a new understanding for those who lose their sense of taste or smell with medications or illnesses. Luckily, my taste and smell have returned, though I will say I am unsure to what extent. Let me tell you--I have a new appreciation for my morning coffee and tasting a homecooked meal.

Here are some takeaways and tips/thoughts if you find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. Enjoy/embrace the texture of your food; if nothing else it will give you something else to focus on and help remind you of what it should smell/taste like.

  2. Stay hydrated. Even though you can’t taste what you are drinking, be sure to stay hydrated and it may even be a great situation if you aren’t a big fan of plain water.

  3. Keep a schedule. Although I didn’t lose my appetite, it was less appealing to eat. I found it helpful to stick to three meals a day with a couple of snacks in between.

  4. Keep smelling! Continue to grab a candle, essential oil, food, or soap that you are familiar with and experience the smell as best you can.

  5. Stay positive!

  6. Let someone know you have lost your smell and taste, as it could be a hazard especially if you live alone or have a hard time reading or hearing.

***Please note I was very fortunate to have had a mild case of COVID with minor symptoms compared to many.

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