Parosmia: 'The smells and tastes we still miss, long after Covid'

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image captionChanay, Wendy and Nick

Last week we published a story about the phenomenon of post-Covid parosmia, a condition where tastes and smells are distorted, and pleasant smells often become disgusting. It's thought that roughly one in 20 people who have Covid end up with parosmia, and though some have already recovered, others are still waiting, up to 10 months later.

Some readers got in touch to tell us, in about 100 words, what flavours and aromas they miss most.

(For more information about parosmia, and tips on where to get help, please click on the story at the bottom of this page)

Back in November I realised my chicken pasta tasted like washing-up liquid. I haven't eaten meat since - mac and cheese, green grapes and baby rusks have become my staples.

I don't know whether I will ever be able to enjoy a Nando's medium-spiced chicken butterfly again as now it smells and tastes foul, like something alien. I have struggled to come to terms with this.

If my smell goes back to normal, I'll never ever take a Nando's with friends for granted again.

Chanay Knight, 21, Birmingham

Caught Covid in October, developed parosmia in November

I miss a simple pleasure - breakfast in bed brought to me every morning by the husband I love. Deeply aromatic coffee with hot, frothy, milk. Good bread, crisp and deep gold, slightly charred at the edges with butter or tangy marmalade.

In spring we both caught Covid and he was hospitalised. I struggled down to the kitchen to make coffee and toast for myself. Exhausted by such a simple task, I clung to the ritual and pictured him beside me.

We both recovered, but coffee and toast is now repulsive to me - like a field just sprayed with manure… unpleasant with a sweet fermented smell on top.

I've lost something that meant so much more to me than just breakfast.

Wendy Thompson, 59, Tameside

Caught Covid in May, developed parosmia in October

I hesitated before I put my nose in the glass. I'd had the wine before, I knew how it should be. The bouquet was wonderful - honeyed, butter with peach and a hint of citrus. But then I took a sip and it hit me. The smell and taste of rotten, putrefying fruit came rushing in on the aftertaste. I felt sick. A biscuit, some nuts, eventually the sweetness of a Mr Kipling apple pie helped.

I miss the pure, clean sensation of smell without the underlying dirt. I hate this. There's not much enjoyment in these days of lockdown and pandemic. I can't even fully enjoy the simple pleasures of a meal or drink.

Nick Harrison, 62, Lutterworth

Caught Covid in March, developed parosmia in April

image captionLuliana, and Domenico with his father

People ask me what smells or tastes I miss, but answering that is very difficult. After six months of living with parosmia, I don't miss any because I have forgotten what normal tastes and smells are like. Maybe it is my body's way of coping with what I've lost.

The new smells seem to have imprinted on my brain permanently - a strong sharp chemical smell mixed with a potent rancid sewer smell that instantly makes my stomach turn.

I struggle most with the change in lifestyle. I miss grab-and-go coffee, and that instant boost of energy it brings. Socialising over a hot drink and a slice of cake. Now even the thought repulses me.

Luliana Rukmin, 41, London

Caught Covid in March, developed parosmia in September

There are many smells that I miss, starting with that lovely minty smell of brushing my teeth in the morning. Toothpaste is now disgusting to me. I miss the smell of the Yves St Laurent aftershave I would wear every day. The smells I now experience are hard to describe because I can't relate them to anything I've smelled before.

I miss the smell of my mum's Italian cooking, especially her bolognese sauce. And the aroma of her Sunday espresso filling the house. I am worried when the weather gets better I won't be able to join my dad in cooking a Greek BBQ together. Halloumi cheese, marinated chicken, mushrooms in garlic. It's something I used to love. I also miss things I didn't think twice about before, like a glass of fruit squash.

I really hope things will go back to normal soon.

Domenico Papageorgiou, 16, London

Caught Covid in March, developed parosmia in August

image captionYogita, and Jennifer (back right) with friends

Ginger lemongrass chai (tea) in the morning, coffee in the afternoons, the familiar smell of my dog - these have been the little joys of life for me. Each one is impacted by parosmia. Coffee is unbearable, chai tastes strange and I can't smell anything when I hug my dog. In fact pretty much nothing smells normal.

I do feel rudderless, being without calming smells or tea and coffee to sip when I want to take a breath on a frantic day.

I'm hoping things will return to normal in a few months, but I do dread the idea that I might not be able to smell the fragrance of wet earth, when my favourite season - the monsoon - begins in Mumbai.

Yogita Limaye, 37, BBC India correspondent in Mumbai

Caught Covid in August, developed parosmia by October

I am learning to live without cheese and chocolate. I will miss my dad's Christmas bread sauce and a Bailey's or a cheese board after a meal.

But what will it be like for me when life returns to "normal" and I am reunited with the friends and family I've not seen in over a year. I worry I'll be unable to be near them because their shampoo is coconut flavour, or their make-up smells like burnt hair, or they've eaten something that I can smell through their skin.

Missing flavours, I can cope with, it is the thought of missing experiences that breaks my heart.

Jennifer Watts, 37, Farnborough

Caught Covid in March, developed parosmia in June

image captionSimon (left, with glasses) and Evelyn

Months after having coronavirus I was struck by my inability to drink a can of Coke. I made my whole family taste it, thinking it was bad. It was obvious that they didn't know what I was talking about.

To me the drink was a stink bomb in my mouth and up my nose. Like the type you used to get in a glass capsule - I once taped one to the bottom of a teacher's chair leg. Now the joke seemed to be on me.

Sulphur is my overriding taste sensation for a whole range of foods now. But most disappointing of all is the tainting of Coke, ginger beer and several other fizzy drinks. Debauched summer nights with a rum and Coke or a Dark and Stormy are gone, I think forever. That was a different time.

Simon Trahar, 44, Buxton

Caught Covid in April, developed parosmia in August

It's as though an invisible hand came out of nowhere, distorting my nose and tongue. I can no longer enjoy the foods I once loved, like popcorn, peanut butter, noodles, toast, nuts, eggs and crackers.

However, the most unbearable is tap water. Showering, rinsing dishes, brushing my teeth, washing my face, and many more daily encounters are now repulsive and unbearable. Living in a world where tap water smells putrid has been one of the hardest things I've ever gone through.

Parosmia has held a great weight over my mental health and I wish nothing more than for everyone, and most importantly young people, to understand that Covid-19 is not a harmless virus. I am filled with uncertainty.

Evelyn Trivette, 17, Lakeland, Florida

Caught Covid in August, developed parosmia in October

image captionJane, and Yannik

I remember when a home-cooked meal was an event - a time to relax, laughing and talking about the events of the day.

Now, nose clip in place, I eat as quickly as humanly possible. I smile and pretend that pasta, lemon juice and cheese, which I've eaten every day for four months, is delicious - and that the vile smells and pungent tastes don't affect me.

I wonder what my first takeaway will be, if my taste returns to normal - Balti saag aloo paneer with pilau rice, perhaps? I dream of the day when I'll sit opposite the love of my life, with a home-cooked meal, sharing a bottle of wine, just enjoying the moment.

Jane Williams, 54, Doncaster

Caught Covid in May, developed parosmia in September

About three weeks after catching Covid, my sense of smell returned. Food and wine smelled good again, thank God! (French foodie talking here.) But one thing got altered: I began to have a terrible distaste for my own BO.

My sweat acquired an acrid rotting-veggie-like fetid smell - swamp-like, but acidic and sharp. It has some "green" notes as well as metal, freshly cut cabbage, and a hint of sulphur. Maybe also "perfume gone-off" - like vetiver, a fragrance I never liked.

I miss my old smell. I've asked my family if they have noticed the difference but they all say, "Your BO stinks just like before, stop asking weird questions."

Yannik Goullin, 55, Maurepas, near Versaille

Caught Covid in March, developed parosmia in May/June

image captionDarren and Anna

On 15 October 2020 I woke up and couldn't smell or taste my breakfast. That lasted about three weeks, then sweet, sour, bitter and umami tastes began to return, one after the other.

By Christmas, I had parosmia. Seafood soup smelled of hot metal - the smell of a brand new oven heating up for the first time. Then all warm foods began to smell of sulphur and burned hair, or - in the case of milk chocolate and desserts - of sickening sweet rosewater.

Anyone who enjoys good melted Raclette cheese will understand when I say I miss strong, salty, pungent flavours. I associate these with my partner. But he too now smells of hot metal, burned hair and sulphur. It's sad.

Darren Ng, 51, Leuven in Belgium

Caught Covid in October, developed parosmia in November

It's the smell of Saturdays I miss the most. When my boyfriend and I would take it in turns to buy pastries: an award for making it through another week. Basking in the morning sun, I would tuck into a warm pain au chocolat and send it down with a glass of fresh orange juice; the sweet and comforting smell of the pastry filling my nostrils and the welcoming tang of the orange nestling on my tastebuds.

Now there is no distinction - every day feels like Groundhog Day. I wake up each morning and chug the same, slurried meal replacement and recoil at the smell of fresh air. I am longing for the day when I can tuck into a pain au chocolat again to celebrate the weekend.

Anna Davey, 22, London

Caught Covid in October, developed parosmia in December

As told to Kirstie Brewer

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Many people with Covid-19 temporarily lose their sense of smell. As they recover, it usually returns - but some are finding that things smell different, and things that should smell nice, such as food, soap, and their loved ones, smell repulsive. The numbers with this condition, known as parosmia, are constantly growing, but scientists are not sure what causes it, or how to cure it.