‘Parosmia’ is the rancid-smelling aftermath of COVID-19 that has many concerned

Coronavirus

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — An increasing number of patients are now suffering from a strange condition after recovering from COVID-19. It’s called parosmia, and it’s leaving patients with a foul smell.

Parosmia is a condition that distorts a person’s sense of smell. The condition can cause one to lose the intensity of his or her smell. But more frequently, it can cause one to experience an overpowering rancid scent. It can happen either around smells that are normally pleasant or around nothing at all.

Danielle Meskunas is a mom to 11-year-old Lorelai. Danielle said her daughter had COVID-19 back in November and like so many others, lost her sense of taste and smell. By late January, Danielle said her child started to regain her ability to smell. But, by early February, something odd started happening.

“She could smell a little bit, but things didn’t smell like she thought they should. She was basically saying things smelled like rotten food, like something that had been sitting in the fridge.”

DANIELLE MESKUNAS, LORELAI’S MOM

Meskunas took her daughter to specialists, like an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) and a neurologist, who oftentimes, she said, were unsure what was going on and could offer little help. One thing they did find out was it could be a life-lasting condition.

“Thankfully our primary care doctor had heard of parosmia, and he said, ‘I think this is what this is…’. He told us this is essentially nerve damage due to COVID and there wasn’t a lot we could do. This condition can go on for months, on the bottom end of it, or it could last forever.”

DANIELLE MESKUNAS, LORELAI’S MOM

NewsNation affiliate WNCT spoke with Dr. Thomas Gallaher, a medical director of infectious diseases and infection prevention. He works at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina and at UNC Lenoir in Kinston, North Carolina.

“Two-thirds of up to 80% of people [with COVID] will lose their taste or smell, but it will eventually go away. Most people do get better, but some have this long COVID.”

DR. THOMAS GALLAHER

Gallaher said he and other colleagues have seen more patients coming in with this condition, but right now they don’t know enough about it. Gallaher said he and other medical professionals have been taking this pandemic one step at a time, first focusing on deaths and how to slow the spread, then on treating acute symptoms.

Now that more people are recovering in mass numbers, he said the next step is research on lingering symptoms caused by the virus.

Meskunas and her daughter have found some comfort in online support groups for other sufferers. Meskunas said this could be a lifelong battle for her daughter, all because of COVID. While not life-threatening, it is life-changing for the Meskunas family, and what doctors say is a growing number of others.

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