COLUMBIA − COVID-19 numbers are trending down in Missouri, but long term symptoms are still affecting those who had the virus months ago.

Lindsay Kent, a University of Missouri student, says she has changed her entire diet after COVID-19 changed her sense of taste and smell.

"Everything I used to love, I was like 'This smells disgusting,'" Kent said. "I don't eat meat anymore, so I eat a pescatarian diet."

She also says chocolate and mint do not taste the same, and coffee now tastes metallic.

It's a change all too familiar for Dr. Christine Franzese, who is an ears, nose and throat specialist at MU Health Care. She's seen it from her patients and in her own experience.

"I've developed this long term problem with my sense of smell," Dr. Franzese said. "I taste metal all the time."

She says symptoms that affect nerves like this are not uncommon, even with other viruses.

"Prior to COVID-19, one of the most common reasons people have suddenly lost their sense of smell was from a virus," Dr. Franzese said. "The question is why are we seeing these long-term changes?"

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists "change in smell or taste" as one of the many long-term COVID-19 symptoms observed in a study. Others include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Cough
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Sleep problems

Dr. Franzese says these symptoms do not seem to be permanent. However, they take it on a case-by-case basis.

"The younger you are, the better your prognosis is to make a full recovery" she said.

Dr. Franzese has recommended different recovery options to help speed up the process. For some, she has used smell tests to keep track of their progress. She has even recommended smell retraining devices to some patients.

Some long-haulers have taken to internet sensations to try to regain their sense of smell. One trend that went viral on TikTok involves burning an orange to the point where the peel is burnt, removing the peel, and mixing the inside of the orange with brown sugar before eating it. The initial video got upwards of 3.8 million likes.

Dr. Franzeser says she has not tried it herself, but several patients and a nurse in her office did. However, the trend did not work for any of them.

"Probably TikTok is not the place to go for sound medical advice, so I would suggest not to do that."

Kent has not tried any TikTok trends to regain her smell, since she doesn't mind being vegetarian. She says the biggest problem is not the food change, but the social change.

"It was hard because I love cooking and love being around people with food," Kent said. "I think it was more hard socially too, because I can't sit next to someone if they're going to order a grilled steak."

Doctors have told Kent that her sense of smell is likely to come back eventually.

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