More than likely, you or a loved one has dealt with COVID-19. The virus comes with many different symptoms, but the most distinct and disorienting is the loss of taste and smell. And there’s no wonder why it’s so confusing! Many flavors and scents bring us joy, and our senses are designed to enjoy them to the fullest. Recent research indicates that our noses can detect at least one trillion different scents.
This is why it can be distressing to lose your taste and smell while you suffer from COVID-19. While it takes weeks or months for some patients to fully recover their senses, you can try several different remedies and treatments to make the process go faster. Read on to explore these methods and see how you can add them to your routine!
Smell training has been called the olfactory equivalent of physical therapy. Like physical therapy, smell training is a practice that you have to maintain over time. If you have just one session of smell training and give up, you probably won’t get anywhere. For those with the patience to stick with it, though, it can be effective!
There’s no single right way to conduct smell training, but here are a few general guidelines:
- Choose two to three items with scents that you’re already very familiar with, such as cooking spices, hand lotion, or cologne.
- Keep those items in an easy-to-access location and sniff them for about twenty seconds each time you pass by.
- During each twenty-second session, imagine in your mind what they smell like.
It may sound like wishful thinking–or wishful smelling–but a recent study indicates that many European patients who were encouraged to use smell training at home saw their sense of smell recover within two months.
Castor Oil and Ginger
Next, we have castor oil and ginger, which can be used in several different ways to reduce nasal inflammation or airway-blocking mucus. For castor oil, use a stovetop or microwave to warm up the oil. The temperature should be warm, not hot! Then, place two drops of the oil in each nostril when you wake up in the morning and again before you go to bed.
If you’d rather use ginger, start by making ginger tea. The strong and unique scent will make for an intense but helpful round of smell training. To try this, peel and slice raw ginger until you have one tablespoon. Then, steep it for about 15 minutes in two cups of hot water. As Dr. Sandra Hajj says: “Drinking ginger tea tames down inflammation of the nasal airways while reducing excess mucus formations that block nasal passages, causing loss of smell.”
The next method that you should be aware of is saline irrigation, which sounds intense but is actually very simple to try at home. The benefit is that saline irrigation can flush out allergens and mucus from your sinus cavity. This method is popular enough that plenty of sterile solutions are available for sale. However, if you’d rather make your own solution, mix one cup of distilled water with one-half teaspoon of salt and one-half teaspoon of baking soda.
Once you have your solution, fill a squeeze bottle or medical syringe with it. Lean your head back and squirt the solution into one nostril. Afterward, let the solution drain out of your mouth or the opposite nostril. Repeat this several times each day for the full benefit!
Peppermint and Water
A less well-known method is boiling peppermint leaves. First, add ten peppermint leaves to one cup of water. Bring that mixture to a boil and add a little honey once it cools down. Once it’s cool enough, drink it to expose your body to peppermint menthol, which is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, two qualities that will assist your senses of smell and taste!
Finally, make sure that you’re staying hydrated. Since a dry mouth has been shown to adversely affect taste, drinking water regularly will boost this sense. On top of the benefits to your senses, staying hydrated will boost your energy levels and relieve headaches. Both are key benefits if you’re recovering from COVID-19, so we encourage you to drink around 64 ounces of water each day!
A Parting Reminder
No matter which strategy you choose, there is hope for people recovering from COVID-19 who want their taste and smell back! While it can take a surprisingly long time for these senses to return, the majority of patients do recover their taste and smell within a month. Try speeding up the process with smell training, saline irrigation, ginger, peppermint, or castor oil treatments. Stay tuned to Top Doctor Magazine for more!