By this point, most of us are familiar with the most obvious symptoms of COVID-19, such as coughing and shortness of breath, a fever or chills, fatigue, and other flu-like symptoms. But studies show that many people suffer from a subtler symptom: a loss or distortion of smell.
Around 86% of patients report a loss of smell with mild COVID-19 cases. Fortunately, this smell loss—known as anosmia—doesn’t have to be permanent.
With a simple treatment known as smell therapy, it’s possible to regain your sense of smell little by little. Let’s take a look at how this therapy works, and how you can try it at home.
What Is Smell Therapy?
Also known as “smell training therapy” or “smell retraining therapy,” smell therapy is the process of expanding and improving your sense of smell.
You might be surprised to know that this idea has been around for longer than the recent pandemic. A 2009 preliminary study found that patients who exposed themselves to different known scents on a regular basis had an easier time identifying scents than those who didn’t do smell therapy.
During smell therapy, patients are tasked with smelling at least four different scents—often common aromas like rose, coffee, strawberry, cloves, lemon, or lavender—at least twice a day. This training period can last anywhere from several months to a year or more.
During the smelling sessions, the goal is to focus on identifying each scent. This focus allows the brain to reorganize its sense of smell, bit by bit. Most doctors also encourage patients to visualize imagery associated with the scent—such as imagining the look and feel of a lemon when smelling a lemon scent.
Loss of Smell Therapy for COVID-19
It’s worth noting that you may not need to do smell therapy if you’ve lost your sense of smell as a result of getting COVID-19. Many patients who lose their sense of smell to this illness find that the loss is temporary, often lasting a few weeks or months. In other words, you may regain your sense of smell naturally in the same amount of time it would take you to undergo smell therapy.
However, it’s also important to be aware that some patients do not regain their sense of smell on their own, or they may find that their sense of smell is distorted.
If you’re worried about your sense of smell, doing smell therapy for a few minutes each day is a good way to help your nose get back on track. Because you can do it from your home, there are few downsides to trying.
How to Do Smell Therapy at Home
To do retraining at home, you’ll need to get your hands on some essential oils. Find four different scents in different categories: flowery (such as rose or lavender), fruity (such as lemon), aromatic (such as cloves), and resinous (such as eucalyptus). You can use a diffuser such as AromaTech scent diffusers as needed.
Set aside some time twice a day to smell these four scents. You’ll want to do so for 15 seconds per scent, with a 15-30 second break between scents. During this time, try to remember what the scent smelled like before you lost your sense of smell, and visualize the plant, spice, or fruit itself.
Start Regaining Your Sense of Smell Today
If you’re suffering from smell loss, smell therapy can help. With a few essential oils and a diffuser, you can practice this simple therapy in the convenience of your own home, allowing your brain to rebuild the connections that allow you to distinguish smells. Give it a try to see if smell retraining will work for you!
Looking for more essential health guides like this one? Be sure to check out our other posts for additional insights.
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