24 July 2020

‘Physiotherapy for the nose’

The Back Page

Why are some patients sniffing shoe polish and perfume post-COVID?

One of the non-life-threatening but miserable effects of COVID is that it zaps people’s ability to smell bacon… and freshly ground coffee… and fresh bread… mmm…

COVID knocks out the ability to taste and/or smell in around 65% of cases.

Most people (around 90%) get all or some of their sense of smell back within a month but around 10% experience no improvement, which is understandably depressing AF.

Those days where you feel like Mr Potato Head minus a nose…

“Smell training” is now being promoted by a UK charity called AbScent as a way to accelerate the return of the olfactory senses after COVID infection.

AbScent founder Chrissi Kelly told Business Insider that the organisation’s membership had tripled since COVID-19 hit, with people from all over the world asking for advice on how to restore their sense of smell to normal.

People undergoing the smell training program are required to sniff four essential oils – rose, lemon, clove, and eucalyptus – for up to 20 seconds twice a day for a minimum of four months to help stimulate the nerves responsible for smell.

“Think of it as physiotherapy for your nose,” the AbScent website states.

You don’t need to buy anything fancy to start the sniffling program; you can make a smell kit at home using shoe polish, coffee or other spices, according to Ms Kelly.

(The Back Page has a feeling that sniffing shoe polish might cause brain damage so maybe check this with a medical professional before you start wafting that under your nose regularly.)

“You just need to get people to really focus and concentrate on what they’re smelling, for it to work,” Ms Kelly told Business Insider.

Genius – TMR is sure no one who’s lost their sense of smell to COVID has thought of that.

So is this simple, non-invasive technique a bit too good to be true?

“Uh hmm … does waving coloured flags in front of a blind people’s faces help recover their sight?” one anonymous and completely unqualified pundit told The Back Page.

“Your sense of smell won’t recover faster if you’re smelling potpourri every day – you just might notice it earlier,” another slightly-more-qualified advisor guessed.

Well, The Back Page has done about 15 minutes of Googling and has concluded that smell training is not completely lacking evidence.

A meta-analysis of 13 studies published in Rhinology in 2017 found that olfactory training had a “positive and statistically significant effect” on olfactory abilities and was a non-invasive, safe procedure that “should be considered a simple addition to existing smell treatment methods”.

Experts think that COVID-19 causes inflammation in the nose, which affects people’s sense of smell.

This inflammation usually leaves the olfactory neurons intact, which is why the sense of smell returns once the infection is cleared.

However, in some cases experts think severe inflammation might damage the olfactory neurons in the nose leading to distortion in sense of smell and slower recovery.

If you see something stupid, say something stupid… Send your hot tips for The Back Page to felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au

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