Lost your smell to COVID-19? Here’s how to retrain your brain.

Millions of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 lose their sense of smell for months at a time. Hoping to speed up recovery, many are resorting to 'smell training.'

One bite into a warm grilled cheese sandwich and Chris Rogers knew something was wrong. He had tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2021 and, two days later, was unable to smell the comforting aroma of melted butter and cheese, or taste the toasted bread. “It was like eating a piece of cardboard,” he says.

Many others who’ve had similar experiences regained their sense of smell and taste within days to a few weeks of the symptoms kicking in. But three months went by and Rogers’ situation barely improved. “You have no idea until you’ve gone weeks upon weeks trying to eat things that you can’t taste or smell,” says the 50-year-old, who lives in Santa Rosa, California. “It’s a very frustrating experience.”

Tired of waiting for his olfactory system to recover naturally, Rogers sought out smell training therapy recommended to him by his ear, nose, and throat doctor. Twice a day for 10 weeks, Rogers sniffed four kinds of essential oils—rose, lemon, eucalyptus, and clove—to potentially activate or strengthen the survival of newly formed odor-detecting cells or speed up their production and rebuild the connection between his nose and brain. It’s akin to physiotherapy, but for the nose, and has been used in the past decade to help restore the sense of smell lost to other viral infections like the common cold or influenza, brain injuries, and aging.

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