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Did Covid break your nose? Doc talks about relearning how to smell

Dr. Clair Vandersteen, left, uses a miniature camera at his hospital in Nice, France, on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, to check inside the nasal passages of a patient, Gabriella Forgione, who says she has been unable to smell or taste since she contracted COVID-19 in November 2020. A year into the coronavirus pandemic, doctors and researchers are still striving to better understand and treat the accompanying epidemic of COVID-19-related anosmia — loss of smell — draining much of the joy of life from an increasing number of sensorially frustrated longer-term sufferers like Forgione. (AP Photo/John Leicester)

SALT LAKE CITY — Most people take their sense of smell for granted, but for some COVID-19 sufferers, that is one of the symptoms of the illness, which doctors spotted early in the pandemic. But it is possible to retrain your brain to smell again, says a Utah doctor who specializes in conquering anosmia.

A French research team discovered only two of 51 patients had an impaired sense of smell one year after their initial diagnosis of coronavirus, according to HealthDay News

Retraining your sense of scent at home

Dr. Alexander Ramirez, medical director for the Otolaryngology Clinical Program for Intermountain Healthcare, is an ear, nose and throat doctor and joins KSL NewsRadio’s Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to discuss retraining COVID-19 patients who have lost their sense of smell (and taste) and how to regain it.

Dr. Ramirez said about 75% of COVID-19 patients have some degree of loss of smell and/or taste.

“One thing that’s unique about the smell nerve is that it has an ability to regenerate, and the part of the brain that controls smell has a lot of neuroplasticity, so you can kind of re-teach it,” he said.

Four unique scents

Ramirez said four items represent the spectrum of smells: rose, eucalyptus, lemon and clove. They are the most studied smells, he said.

“It’s important not to put it in your nose or on your lip. They can be fairly caustic to the lining of the nose,” he said. 

Put the item in a jar and have someone smell it to make sure it is a strong enough smell. Hold it 1 to 2 inches away from your nose. Repeated sniffs are better than one long sniff, the doctor said.

“You want to do each scent about 20 seconds and do that twice a day,” he said “We recommend at least three to six months of the therapy.”

If you don’t have access to any of those four smells, find a smell that has a powerful memory attached to it for you such as a perfume or cologne. A visual image will help retrain your brain how a particular scent is suppose to smell.

Retraining the brain to smell gives patients something to do other than passively worry about things like not being able to smell smoke.

Retraining the brain to smell “does give [patients] not only a higher chance of recovery, but it gives them an active treatment that they can be involved in to help in that recovery process,” Ramirez said.


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.