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Long haul COVID-19 survivors turn to smell therapy for help

candle
Posted at 8:51 AM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 09:51:21-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A smell and taste clinic at Vanderbilt University is slammed because they're seeing so many COVID-19 survivors with long-haul symptoms.

Not being able to smell flowers, candles, and food can be upsetting.

"They can be so disturbing that people get really depressed, and just have a lack of enjoyment in their daily activities," said Dr. Justin Turner.

That's where Dr. Turner at Vanderbilt's smell and taste clinic steps in to help.

"There’s a lack of enjoyment of meals, often their issues with nutrition, because food doesn’t taste as well. Simple things like not being able to smell when your baby has a dirty diaper, safety issues like 'I can’t smell gas, I can’t smell smoke,' these are all things that when they occur, particularly if they occur suddenly, are very jarring to someone," Tuner said.

Due to safety concerns, he advises patients to get help.

"To make sure they have family members who can make sure that their food is not spoiled, make sure that they have active and functioning smoke detectors," Turner said.

He said long haulers without smell should sniff essential oils twice a day for 15 to 30 seconds.

"So they don’t necessarily have to be pungent, and actually many of the smells that we utilize are pleasant, so it’s sort of flowery, and resinous type smells," Turner said.

In some cases, this impacts people’s livelihoods, especially if they're a wine taster because they rely on taste and smell to pick wine for restaurants. Turner said he's treated sommeliers across the country.

"Three or four in the last six months," he said.

Post-viral loss of taste and smell is not a new concept, so the clinic has been open for years. However, due to new demand created from COVID-19, the clinic is expanding its hours.

"The clinic is booked out," Turner said.

According to Turner, 80% of patients who had COVID-19 will get near complete smell and taste recovery about 6 to 8 weeks after their initial infection. His patients are generally rare cases.

This story was originally published by Alexandra Koehn at WTVF.

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