“I stopped going places, even to my mother’s house or to dinner with friends, because anything from food to candles melted so terribly,” said LaLiberte, 35. “My relationships are strained. ”
She is dealing with parosmia, a pungent smell that may have previously pleasant aromas – like fresh coffee or a romantic companion – become unpleasant and even intolerable. Combined with anosmia, or reduced sense of smell, it is a symptom that has increased with some people who have been exposed to COVID-19.
The exact number of people suffering from parosmia is unknown. One recent study found that 47% of people with COVID-19 had changes in smell and taste; of those, about half said they were developing parosmia.
“That means a rose could smell like feces,” said Dr. Richard Doty, director of the Center for Smell and Taste at the University of Pennsylvania. He noted that people usually regain their scent within months.
Right now, LaLiberte can’t stand the smell of her own body. Showers don’t help; the smell of washing her body, sit-ups and shampoo made her sick.
Plus, she found the same smell on her eight-year-old husband. “There isn’t much intimacy at the moment,” she said. “And not because we don’t want to.”
“It’s a much bigger issue than people believe,” said Dr Duika Burges Watson, who heads the Eating Change Research Network at the University of Newcastle in England and submitted a journal research paper on her subject. “It’s something that affects your relationships with yourself, with other people, your social life, and your close relationships. ”
RIP dinner dates and ‘energyless kissing’
Many sufferers of parosmia mourn the loss of social habits, such as going out to dinner or being physically close with loved ones, especially after a year that was already lonely.
“For me, it’s a freaking battle,” said Kayash Rose, 25, a Nashville singer. She has been playing live music in bars and restaurants across the country, and walking into those places has become unpleasant. “I was in Arizona for a party, and we went into a restaurant and I almost threw up,” she said. But dealing with people’s perceptions of her situation is almost worse.
“My friends try to get me to try their food because they think I’m augmenting the reality. “Now she jumps most of the social gatherings, or goes and eats.
Jessica Emmett, 36, who works for an insurance company in Spokane, Washington, received COVID-19 twice, initially in early July and again in October. Parosmia has been a traumatic symptom. “I feel like I’m running out of breath all the time,” she said.
Before contacting her husband, she uses a mouthpiece and a toothpick. Even then, she can’t shake the feeling that she’s sewing. And it’s not just her breath. “Asleep, I can smell it, and it’s changed a little bit,” she said.
The result: much less density. “A kiss is not very passionate, without energy,” she said.
Her only comfort is that she has been with her husband for over 20 years. “How would you explain this to someone you’ve been trying so far? ”She said.
Burges Watson said she has come across young people with parosmia who are embarrassed to make new connections. “Their own body odors can take them away,” she said. “It’s very difficult for them to think about what other people would think. ”
Finding a community
Some people suffering from parosmia have turned to Facebook groups to share suggestions and reach out to people who can relate to their symptoms. “I went to the doctor, and the doctor legitimately looked at me as if I were a cunning man,” said Jenny Banchero, 36, an artist in St. Petersburg, Florida, who has been experiencing parosmia since early in the September. “It wasn’t until I joined a Facebook Group that I learned that people take this seriously. ”
Sarah Govier, a healthcare worker in England who experienced parosmia after receiving COVID-19, created the Anosmia / Parosmia COVID Support Group over the summer. “The day I opened it in August, five or six people came together,” she said. “By January we had hit 10,000 people.” It now has nearly 16,000 members.
Another Facebook group, AbScent, which was started before the pandemic and is linked to a charity, has seen more interest. “People come from all over, from South America, Central Asia, the Far East, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Canada,” said Chrissi Kelly, founder AbScent.
In March, Siobhan Dempsey, 33, a graphic designer and illustrator in Northampton, England, told the COVID Anosmia / Parosmia Facebook group: “I’m happy to say that I’ve now got 90% of my taste and smell back after almost a year of COVID seizures. “It was full of congratulatory comments.