People who have lost their sense of smell can cope with this therapy
One of the most noticeable symptoms of COVID-19 is the temporary loss of smell and taste. For a subset of people, these symptoms can last for months and create great stress and anxiety. But something called “odor therapy” helps them deal with it.
Research has found this to be an affordable, non-invasive, and convenient method of treating odor loss, also known as olfactory retraining or olfactory training.
Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis via Unsplash
Odor therapy is simple: it consists of exposing the person to strong odors such as eucalyptus, rose, lemon, and clove for a period of 15 to 20 seconds twice a day. These smells are supposed to evoke the four main smells: floral, fruity, aromatic and resinous.
In a study published in the journal Laryngoscope, the researchers found that after 12 weeks, participants reported better detection of odors than those who did not follow the odor tests.
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“It is important that you understand that this is, for example, a rose scent that you should smell,” said ENT specialist Dr. Raj Sindwani on Self. “The idea is that you’re trying to think about how roses smell and what they look like by combining visual imagery with the stimulation of the isolated smell.”
Despite research, how the olfactory system works is not fully understood. In a normally functioning system, the odor particles in the air signal the receptors in the sinuses, which then send a signal to the odor area in the brain. Viral diseases can damage these receptors.
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Smell therapy is designed to involve the brain in the act of smelling, activating neuroplasticity, helping it grow, reorganizing, and creating new pathways and connections related to smell.
While the majority of people who suffer from COVID-19 and lose their sense of smell will regain it in a few weeks, not everyone does. For some, their smell comes back slowly and may never fully recover. Scent therapy can help speed the recovery process and give these people a sense of control.