Living with Parosmia: A Distorted Sense of Smell

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Smell is a Sense We Take For Granted

The ability to smell pleasant or unpleasant odors is something we take for granted. We all enjoy nice smells. A cologne or purfume, or fresh coffee from a new can, or the sweet fragrance of onions fried in oil.

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These are all fragrences that I remember enjoying, but over the last three months all of these have smelled absolutely putrid to me. I am experiencing Parosmia, a distorted sense of smell.

Parosmia: A change in the normal perception of odors, such as when the smell of something familiar is distorted, or when something that normally smells pleasant now smells foul. Source

History of Smell Issues Since the Virus

My family and I first got the famous virus (you know which one) in early November of 2021. It took almost a month for it to go completely through our household of eight people. My wife got it before I did and she noted that her sense of smell was completely gone. She could still TASTE (sweet, salty, sour, bitter), but there was no smell. When I got it, it was a rough two weeks or so but I got through it. On about the third or fourth day, I was laid up in bed. My parents bought pizza for our family and we were all every excited about pizza. We don't get pizza very often. I took my first bite and was SHOCKED to discover it had zero flavor. I couldn't taste the tomato sauce, the cheese, nothing. Just a little saltiness.

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I began to worry that this was perminent, but after a few weeks my sense of smell began to recover. The first smells (taste) I could detect was umami, that meaty/mushroomy taste. Little by little, a more full range of tastes (actually smells) began to come back.

Ok so that's the end of the story, what's the problem?

The Next Illness

The problem was the next illness, what we suspect is is the chimeric adenovirus. Our children began with cold-like symptoms, which developed into a very painful sore throat. Then it became a stomach illness with issues from mouth and otherwise.

It was a nasty virus that effected everyone in the home, including myself and the wife. It took an extremely long time for this illness to pass through the home, about a month and a half. We canceled many events with our family over this illness.

It was early March when I first noticed another issue with my sense of smell. It had only been a few months since my sense of smell returned, now something's going wonky.

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I was drinking a can of pepsi (seems like it's always junk food we discover these things) and the aftertaste was weird. Like really weird. The drink was sweet and carbonated, but after drinking a sip it had this strange sickly taste to it.

Oh no. Not again.

I began noticing certain smells and tastes were "off" and I began trying to narrow it down. Scents and tastes that were "herbal" like basil, clove, cumin (my favorite spice) all smelled terrible to me. Soaps and hair products were almost unbearable until I got used to it. Onions and garlic are some of my favorite flavors, but right now they are the worse, yuck!

I don't know if this is still from the illness in November or this new illness we were experiencing, but either way it was annoying.

Stop and Smell the Coffee

As I made my coffee this morning according to my routine, I opened a fresh can of ground coffee. Normally this is almost like an experience all on it's own. Breaking the seal and smelling that fresh coffee for the first time, oh it's the best.

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As I put my nose up to the coffee, I could almost FEEL the smell in my nose. But the smell... I remember what coffee smells like, but this doesn't smell that that. This is awful. It's difficult to describe. Sort of metallic, burnt. Not completely revolting, but (the best way to describe it) it smells WRONG.

My sense of smell has been messed up since March (it's been three months now) and I'm getting tired of it. I've heard people say it takes "weeks" for it to come back, others say "months" and others say up to a year or more. A YEAR OR MORE????

What is All This?

I began looking up "weird smell" on PRESEARCH and discovered that this disorder has a name: PAROSMIA. It's a result of a misfiring of the ofactory nerves in the nose.

Parosmia (from the Greek παρά pará and ὀσμή osmḗ "smell") is a dysfunctional smell detection characterized by the inability of the brain to correctly identify an odor's "natural" smell. Instead, the natural odor is usually transformed into an unpleasant aroma, typically a "burned", "rotting", "fecal", or "chemical" smell. Source

So it's not actual nerve damage, but a nervous system malfunction. Certain fragrences are not correctly interpreted by the brain. I'm not alone, there are many people suffering with this issue, even now.

Problem is, there are no known treatments for this disorder, except wait for the brain to sort things out.

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Dealing

With no (official) treatment, the only thing to do is to wait it out. In the meantime, I'm working with my wife to determine flavors that are pleasant, or at least not revolting. She's a good cook and many good meals start with cooked onions - I don't want to complain to her about how awful the onions smell to me, nor do I want everyone to change their eating habits over my new "disfunction".

So the best option I settled on is two things:

  1. Get used to the weird smell until it's gone
  2. Not complain about the weird smells

That's it. Nobody is beholden to my messed up nose, they can cook onions, they can wear purfume or cologne, they don't have to coddle my broken smelling device. Until this problem goes away, it's my job to deal. And please forgive my short rant/complaint.

Has any of you experience something like this? Do you know someone dealing with Parosmia?


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Benjamin Turner: God fearer. Rooted in Messiah. Husband of @lturner. Father of six wonderful children. The guy behind the camera. Blockchain enthusiast.

Bless the Most High!

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23 comments
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Sorry to read that, must be shit!
Besides not smelling anything due to a runny nose when having a good cold, I never experienced the "no smell and taste" experience during the pandemic. I was actually on the better hand already when my boyfriend said "ewh, this is too spicy" and I was like what are you talking about, spicy? It's plain! He looked at me as if I came from another planet :)

He could not believe it and pulled a bottle of vinegar out of the cabinet which I can barely have near me normally. I smelled and smelled, even with my nose above the bottle and NOTHING, so weird! It took me 3,5 weeks I think before it slowly all came back.

I also remember that when this phase arrived, brushing my teeth hurt my nose (lol, seriously!) when I was brushing them and the mint scent entered my nose, I was in pain! I could barely make it till the end of a brushing session. So weird!

I'm not really sure if it ever returned to normal because I do think that I have a changed opinion about some scents since but I never really paid enough attention to find out if I had huge changes. Either way, the weirdest thing to go through, hopefully you will have everything back to normal soon!

!CTP

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Yes, this really is a bizarre symptom, having scent disappear or become distorted. Given the odd background of this virus and injection, we are seeing stranger and stranger things happening.

!ALIVE
!CTP

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Have you been vaxed? So many vaxed people have been experiencing the weirdest things, let's not go there in this comment section but I will not have it unless I have no other choice left. And even then I will fight it, lol. It's all an experimental phase so you can't even hold them responsible.

Hopefully, all will be well again soon!

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Have you been vaxed? So many vaxed people have been experiencing the weirdest things

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I was brushing them and the mint scent entered my nose, I was in pain!

Never had that experience! Wow. Has that improved, or is it still agony to brush your teeth?

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Yes, this was when my smell and taste slowly started to recover. It took about a week or maybe two, the best way to describe it was that it was extra sensitive and the strong scent of mint was too much for my nose to handle :)
my mouth had no issues with the mint, but my nose did. Super weird, once my taste and smell was back, this was over.. it was a phase until it all recovered.. weird right?

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That is a bummer, Benjamin. There are a number of people who still suffer from anosmia and parosmia. That is part of enjoying things is the smell. I hope it resolves soon.

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No changes in taste and smell, ever ... but VERTIGO ... still having bouts of that occasionally ... three weeks out ... slow recovery ...

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Vertigo? Yikes! This illness does very odd things to people. I hope this goes away for you.

!ALIVE
!CTP

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It seems I have to watch out for two things in particular -- staying hydrated, and not doing too much -- otherwise, I get my invite to the Blue Danube Waltz at the most inopportune moments!

(I figure, if you gotta dance around to stay on your feet, pick a classic waltz for the tune)

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Sorry to hear about your loss of smell and taste. I haven't had taste for over 3 years because of radiation treatment for throat cancer. It is supposed to come back someday. I have learned to taste with my mind. I just remember what stuff used to taste like. Hope you recover soon.

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Three years? I'm so sorry about that, having to imagine tastes isn't fun.

I have learned to taste with my mind.

How does that work? Tasting with your mind, Sort of like a mind trick?

!ALIVE
!CTP

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Hello my friend! 😊

We had it in January of this year and both my sense of smell and taste/my taste buds are still off. I used to have a super sensitive olfactory sense, unbearable at times, but not anymore, most things don't smell like they should to me anymore. I'm happy for the less sensitive sense of smell, but really wish things would smell and taste like they should again. I'm waiting as patiently as one can when they've no idea on the eta of the anxiously waited return of someone/something they miss. Until then, I will totally be willing to let you vent to me about yours, since you just heard about mine. LOL! 😊

God bless you and your wonderful family. Have an awesome day my fabulous friend! 😊

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most things don't smell like they should to me anymore.

Six months later and still not healed. Wow, the process of recovery is very slow.

I will totally be willing to let you vent to me about yours, since you just heard about mine.

Ha ha, misery loves company. I've been very good up until now not really talking or thinking about it... but the coffee this morning got to me.

!ALIVE
!CTP

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It's so funny, before Covid I always felt nauseous around coffee, freshly opened, in the process of percolating, or sitting on the table getting cold, all were gross, but after Covid it's tolerable, just makes me start breathing through my nose to avoid the smell without the nausea. That's at least something good about having had it for me. LOL! 😊

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So sorry to hear that. We have taken for granted our senses. Thanks for this post to bring our awareness for the things we take for granted. And I hope you have fully recover fast so that you can enjoy the beautiful that is out there. Stay safe.

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This seems to be a frequent complaint in recent times! I hope your sense of smell comes back soon.

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