Cleveland woman suffers from COVID side effect that makes everything smell like cigarette smoke

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) – Imagine what it would be like if everything around you smelled of garbage, chemicals, or even cigarette smoke. Sadly, this is a reality for the hundreds of thousands of people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Lisa Sabol stayed home until she was fully immunized. She practiced social distancing and wore her mask, but in August she still found herself with COVID.

“I decided it was time for me to venture out into the world again, and I went to a few bars to see bands and came home with COVID one day,” Sabol said. “Kind of like a mild fever, cold symptoms, nothing really bad. And then I had a really extreme headache. It went on for days and all I could do was lay down on the sofa.

The Cleveland woman also lost her sense of taste and smell. Five months later, his sense of taste returned somewhat, but his sense of smell has not returned to normal.

“I have to look at the expiration dates now because I can’t tell if something is wrong,” Sabol explained.

She has something called parosmia, which can smell normally pleasant, smell bad, rotten, or something else entirely.

“Everything smells of cigarettes,” Sabol said. “But it’s a constant; I feel like my head is in a cloud of cigarette smoke all day. It’s pretty extreme. I feel very awkward about my space because my brain tells me it smells like smoke. And then I have to like to remind myself that it’s just a trick that my senses play with me, and it doesn’t really smell like that.

She says it also makes eating a challenge.

“A little,” admitted Sabol. “I’m just thankful that I don’t have what you know; some of the people who have it go through it where things taste like chemicals or rotten meat. “

Sabol says she realized she smelled like smoke that wasn’t there one day as she sat on the couch with his wife.

“I had the heater blowing over me because I had frozen, and it was just overwhelming,” she explained. “It was like there was a room full of cigarette smokers behind the fan, and everything was blowing all over me. When I was complaining about that cigarette smoking all over my couch, my wife was like, baby I don’t smell it, and you know how much it affects me and how i don’t like it and I’m telling you the smell isn’t there. I was just like, wow, like all the things it could smell? Why is it the smell of cigarettes? I, you know, it’s just something that I fight against.

The side effect also means that she has to depend on her smoke detector, as she cannot detect the actual smell of smoke.

A recent study from the University of Washington found that between 700,000 and 1.6 million people in the United States who had COVID reported suffering from a loss of smell or a distorted sense of smell for six months or more. more.

“This is something that can be very devastating and can also cause depression,” said Dr. Scott Howard of University Hospitals. “When people can’t smell, they lose their sense of taste. So, I mean, it can be very frustrating.

Dr Howard said that many patients would regain their sense of smell without any effort, but some people are not so fortunate.

“There are some who haven’t recovered at all,” Dr. Howard said. “It’s unfortunate when this happens.”

Howard said he had seen patients who had suffered from parosmia for over a year. For long-term sufferers, Dr Howard recommends scent retraining therapy – but Sabol doesn’t have health insurance.

“You can buy scent recycling therapy kits, which will contain various scent bottles for you to try; I would generally recommend doing this twice a day, for about four or five minutes, ”Dr. Howard said. “Really the way to do it is kind of like playing a game almost, you know, you know, sniff it, try it, remember what that smells like and then look at the vial figure out what it feels like again, really try to associate your brain around this sense. It’s rather frustrating when you are starting out because you can’t feel this item frequently at first. But as time goes on and you keep doing it, there’s usually a change that happens over time, and you re-associate those smells.

Sabol tried all kinds of remedies, including the Vicks steam rub and menthol inhalers.

“It’s so ingrained in my head it’s a real thing,” Sabol explained. “Sometimes I feel like my eyes are burning from the smoke that isn’t there.”

The study also found that these side effects are more common and tend to persist longer in younger patients; researchers are still trying to figure out why this might be.

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