- Loss of taste and smell is a common COVID-19 symptom.
- Even though loss of smell isn’t the most serious COVID-19 symptom, it can still be traumatic.
- One expert says to stick to your regular showering routine if you can’t smell yourself and feel insecure about it.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
I lost my sense of smell due to COVID-19, and I feel insecure about my cleanliness. I constantly ask myself, “Do my armpits smell? Is it time to take another shower?
I intensely scrub my body and layer on deodorant three times a day — and I still wonder if I reek.
In addition to being self-conscious about my hygiene, losing my sense of smell has impacted my well-being, too.
I’m anxious about not knowing if my sense of smell will ever return, and I feel like a ghost when I sniff a piece of toast and can’t detect its delicious and warm scent.
I’m not the only person who has suffered from this strange side-effect of the virus.
Loss of smell is a common COVID-19 symptom
A systemic study, published in August 2020 in the Mayo Clinic, reviewed 24 studies with a sample size of over 8,000 people and found that, on average, 41% of people with COVID-19 lose their sense of taste and smell.
After Keyaira Kelly, 31, lost her sense of smell pre-diagnosis in November 2020, she washed herself three to four times daily to make sure she was clean.
Smelling your own body is a tried-and-true method to gauge your hygiene, but the virus robbed Kelly of that experience — so she panicked and over washed.
“It was weird to hold your nose to your armpit and not smell if your deodorant has failed you or not,” Kelly told Insider.
Dr. Syra Madad, an infectious disease epidemiologist at NYC Health + Hospitals, had COVID-19 in March 2020 and lost her sense of smell, too.
Madad routinely takes a shower before leaving the house, so she wasn’t too concerned about her own hygiene. Nevertheless, one time, she couldn’t smell her own daughter’s dirty diaper.
“It was one of those things where you also feel bad because you want to make sure your child is also clean,” Madad said. Fortunately, Madad’s husband could smell the diaper and knew it was time for a change.
If you lost your sense of smell to COVID-19 and are feeling unsure about your hygiene, experts and COVID-19 survivors said there are steps you can take to feel clean.
Losing your sense of smell can be traumatic
Ansomnia is the total or partial loss of smell. Researchers believe that ansomnia is a common COVID-19 symptom because the cells in our nose are rich in ACE2 receptors, which is what the coronavirus binds to to infect a cell. Once the virus and the cell fuse, the coronavirus’s RNA enters the healthy cell and makes copies of the virus’s RNA.
Madad said some people might think losing your sense of smell isn’t a big deal, but she considers it a traumatic experience. Especially because she no longer had the simple pleasure of smelling food, which is important because the pandemic stripped away other meaningful activities from her.
Madad also had a lot of anxiety because, at the time, she wasn’t sure if her smell would return.
A study, published in January 2021, found that 15% of 487 people who lost their sense of smell felt depressed. 76% of pollees said their quality of life declined.
Kelly said suddenly losing her sense of smell was traumatic and paralyzing because the feedback you get from your body — like smelling clean after a shower —disappears.
If you’re worried about your hygiene, rely on your routine
Madad said if you can’t smell and are worried about your hygiene, stick to your normal showering routine. But if you do a sweat-inducing activity, like gardening or exercising, take a shower afterward.
Kelly suggested over showering is fine if that makes you feel secure.
“Don’t feel self-conscious about going the extra mile to ensure that you are existing in your world in a way that makes you comfortable,” Kelly said.
You can even ask your loved ones to smell you to make sure you’re as fresh as you think you are, Kelly said.
If you’re diligently cleaning yourself, but still feel insecure, Madid said that you’re not alone and the side-effect could be short-lived. Madid and Kelly’s sense of smell returned after a month.
Although the loss of smell can be temporary, Madid said experts are still studying the long-term impacts of COVID-19, and losing your sense of smell could be more than a minor inconvenience.
In fact, some people with long COVID can’t smell for months after infection, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“So don’t put yourself in that situation,” Madid said — recommending vaccination to avoid possible long-hauler effects from the virus.
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