Phantosmia, constant sensation of bad smell, new symptom of Covid-19

THE ESSENTIAL

  • Phantosmia is an olfactory hallucination that gives the sensation of a constant smell.
  • Phantosmia is a common ailment for respiratory illnesses and often follows the period of anosmia where the patient can smell.
  • Phantosmia could be more severe in patients with Covid-19 than in those with another respiratory disease.

Anosmia, or loss of smell, along with loss of taste, is one of the characteristic symptoms of a Covid-19 infection. Researchers have managed to explain it, pointing to the role of ACE2 receptors that allow the virus to enter cells and cause edema. A new study reports another consequence of infection with Covid-19: phantosmia. This olfactory hallucination would affect many infected people, as revealed by a study presented by the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Research during a webinar that took place on September 26.

Phantosmia follows anosmia

Phantom odors, almost exclusively unpleasant, are said to be a new symptom of Covid-19. For some, these smells are like the smell of cigarettes, rotten garbage, petroleum, even familiar fragrances that become unbearable. “The perfume, aftershave and shower gel all smell like cleaning products. My favorite wine now tastes sick just like pineapple and soft cheeses, testified Karen Thomas, interviewed by the Daily Mail. I kept asking my husband if something was on fire, and he had no idea what I was talking about. More recently I started to smell the essence.”

Phantosmia is a common ailment for respiratory illnesses and often follows the period of anosmia where the patient can smell. A larger study of healthcare workers will soon be published by the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Research. This fact was fantosmia in several patients, ranging from a simple burning sensation in the nose to excruciating odors. “Phantosmia is very common in upper respiratory tract infections and it always starts with a loss of smell”, Specifies Professor Carl Philpott, of Norwich Medical School, to the British media.

Two days of nose rehabilitation

Phantosmia could be more severe in patients with Covid-19 than in those with another respiratory disease. The virus affects the taste buds which work with receptors in the nose to form our complete sense of smell. Additionally, Covid can affect areas of the brain related to the perception of smell, causing even more severe and lasting symptoms. “A rose, for example, has 13 scent molecules, which are picked up by different receptors. But if only six of these scent receptors work, a rose won’t smell like a rose.”, Decrypts Carl Philpott.

The researcher adds that he receives patients almost daily who report unpleasant phantom odors. He specifies that treatments exist to re-educate the nose. For this, patients are given jars containing paper impregnated with distinctive scents – such as cloves, lemon, rose and eucalyptus – which they must smell twice a day. This helps stimulate the receptors, encouraging them to heal faster.


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