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Alba Iulia
Monday, October 19, 2020

“I have had no taste or smell for 28 days, so no pleasure in eating”

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Covid-19 patients who have lost taste and smell dream of small spicy dishes and sweet treats, but for now, they have no more pleasure on the plate. – Free-Photos / Pixabay

  • Since the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic in France, many patients developing a mild form of the disease have reported loss of taste and smell.
  • If most recover both ways within a fortnight, it could take up to a year for some people.
  • For patients, the pleasure of eating is therefore absent.

Don’t feel anything anymore. Nor the scent of a precious scent that you spray on your skin. Or the spice that delicately perfumes the kitchen while a good little dish simmers. Or even the taste of the good little dish in question. For many patients of the coronavirus, it’s the sudden onset of anosmia and ageusia –
loss of smell and taste – which allowed the diagnosis of the
Covid-19.

A particular symptom brought to light less than a month ago and which poses a question which worries many patients: after how long do we find these lost senses? According to a first study conducted on 417 non-severe Covid-19 patients, to be published in the review European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, “44% of patients would regain taste and smell within fifteen days of their disappearance,” reassures Professor Stéphane Hans, head of the ENT department at Foch Hospital in Suresnes (Hauts-de-Seine) and co-author of the ‘study. For longer cases, it could take up to a year. But for those who experience it, this period when you no longer feel anything is very special, and completely ruins the pleasure on the plate.

Seal the diagnosis

High fever, migraines, aches and intense fatigue, Elisa, Marie, Coline and Côme have all experienced it. But the certainty of having contracted the Covid-19 came to the fore when their taste and smell got together, when their noses were not blocked. “It was very sudden,” recalls Elisa. It was precisely 28 days ago, says the young woman. One evening, I was eating a piece of my sister’s birthday cake, without any worries, and two hours later, I no longer smelled anything, no perfume, no flavor, nada! I worried about it with my mother, who immediately made the connection with the Covid-19, she who in turn developed
skin signs of coronavirus. “Same cause and same effects for Marie:” One morning I had my coffee and it had no taste. I would have been served a cup of hot water, it would have been the same! “

It was also what sealed the diagnosis for Coline and her husband, Como, who had the first symptoms in mid-March, when confinement was decreed. “We were really knocked out, with all the classic symptoms. In teleconsultation, our doctor told us that it was either the flu or the coronavirus, and invited us to pay attention to any loss of taste and smell, which would favor the Covid-19. And that’s when we knew we had it, “says Coline.

“No pleasure in eating”, “a taste of cotton”

Forget the gourmet breakfasts and snacks which Elisa, who no longer perceives any sweet flavor, usually loves. “I like to snack normally, but there, as nothing tastes good, I sometimes forget to eat it. I even crunched an onion to see, I didn’t feel anything. ” No taste buds singing either for Marie: “I only perceive certain flavors, bitterness in particular, so dishes that I usually adore seem a bit gross at the moment. “

For their part, after two weeks of intense fatigue, Côme and Coline wanted to take advantage of the confinement to cook good meals, while ”
everyone makes their own bread ” “We spend two hours in the kitchen preparing something too good but
we don’t feel anything, it’s frustrating, regrets Côme. I don’t even want to taste my super
Easter chocolates, that would be a waste, “confides the one who estimates to have found only 50% of his taste and smell. A weariness shared by his wife: “When everything you eat tastes of cotton, even metallic oil, it is a very peculiar and very unpleasant feeling,” describes Coline. Already,
containment and the tiredness of the disease undermines morale, but anosmia and ageusia even spoil the pleasure of good comfort food. “

“I almost set my house on fire”

To try to wake up her plate a little, Coline put “three times more salt and pepper, and lots of raw shallots in all dishes!” And he bet with her husband on a few “madeleines de Proust” dishes. “Simple things that we have always loved and that awaken sensory memory a little. As if the brain is filling up on flavors that we don’t perceive, “explains Côme. But the maneuver has its limits. “I tasted a vanilla pastry, I smelled of sugar, but no perfume, it was bland,” he adds. I appreciated much more lemon pie on the other hand, with its stronger flavors on the palate ”.

Failing to smell anything else, Elisa has a heavy hand on salt, the only flavor that she can perceive in a distant way, and varies the pleasures with the textures: “Soft mash that does not taste like nothing, no! But the crunchy sandwiches and appetizer cookies add a little flavor. “

Marie, on the other hand, became aware of the “role of alert to the danger that the nose plays”. “I almost set fire to my house one morning, I did not smell the toast burning in the toaster! It was my children and my husband who realized this. They are also involved in adjusting the seasoning of meals. “I usually cook a lot, but if I don’t smell anything, it’s up to them to tell me whether to add salt, pepper or spices ” And it’s not the only thing that Marie no longer felt. “I asked them if I didn’t smell bad,” she jokes.

The preferred inflammation track

For 44% of the patients studied, the recovery of taste and smell occurred within two weeks of their loss. A delay observed by Marie: “It came back little by little, in two weeks, first the taste, about 60%, and the smell, 40%”. Another observation: women are significantly more affected by these two symptoms than men. “Covid-19 is known to trigger an inflammatory response in the body,” says Professor Hans. It is considered that, physiologically, women defend themselves better against different types of infections, that they have more effective inflammation. “

And many questions have not yet been answered on the mechanism of loss of smell and taste, “two senses with a very complex physiology,” emphasizes the ORL. Unlike the optic nerve or the auditory nerve for sight and hearing, several nerves are involved in taste and smell. For example, if you chew a mint chewing gum, the sweet flavor will be perceived by the taste, the scent of the mint will be perceived by the scent, and the feeling of freshness will be felt through
to the trigeminal system. Hence the difficulty of studying the mechanisms of these two senses and their loss. ”
An international investigation has therefore just been launched.

But the inflammation track is favored by ENT doctors. “The over-representation of women – whose inflammatory response is more effective – and the reappearance of the senses within two weeks of infection suggests that the loss of taste and smell is caused by the inflammation caused by the coronavirus. This rapidity makes it possible to rule out the hypothesis of damage to the olfactory neurons, which would be much longer to repair. “

Up to a year before recovering taste and smell

In the longest cases, it may take up to a year to recover the taste and smell. Estimates to be refined. “This deadline was set on the basis of previous studies on anosmias caused by seasonal flu, explains Stéphane Hans. Our work is preliminary and we are deepening it, because we have very little perspective on the Covid-19. If anosmia and ageusia are reported in nearly nine out of ten mild patients in France, there would be less than 5% in China, and in the United States, where
obesity is much more widespread, it is the digestive disorders linked to Covid-19 which are more reported. This could also mean that the virus has variants depending on the genetics of different populations. “

After ten days without any taste or smell, Elisa made an appointment for a teleconsultation. “The doctor told me to wait to see if things returned to normal after two weeks, but it didn’t come back.” However, “do not panic, reassures Stéphane Hans, nor use corticosteroids. If these signs persist, we can consult an ENT specialist at the time of deconfinement ”. In the meantime, some exercises can be tried, such as “recognizing odors”, prescribes Professor Rémi Salomon, president of the medical commission of establishment the AP-HP. Try to awaken your sleeping senses by smelling spices and fresh herbs such as vanilla, cinnamon, cumin, mint or even
coriander.

“This is part of the olfactory rehabilitation that can be implemented,” confirms Professor Hans. A rehabilitation that Elisa is already trying: “My mother makes me smell spices like curry and turmeric, or the scent of laundry. And for the past few days, I have been able to perceive some odors. I breathe them in full, but they hardly reach me, as if I could smell them from far away. ” Initial results “encouraging,” comments Professor Hans. Even if it is far away, it means that the nerves are not destroyed, that the inflammation decreases and that the senses are gradually restored. ” Elisa, who will blow out her twenty candles in a few days, “still hopes to find a little taste by then, just to be able to enjoy my birthday cake!” “

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