Natalia Cano, a twenty-year-old college student, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in January. It completely transformed her life. A series of videos were posted to her YouTube channel. TikTok accountCano shared her experience of living with the post-COVID symptom parosmia. She explained that “there’s no cure, there’s just hoping.” But what is this symptom and why has it lasted for so long?
What is Parosmia and How Does It Work?
According to the University of Utah Health, parosmia “is a condition where otherwise normal smells now smell unpleasant or even disgusting.” An example would be the smell of coffee or fruit suddenly smelling like rotten meat or eggs.
In Cano’s case, her parosmia has distorted her sense of smell so that most of her favorite foods and beverages smell like sewage, rotting garbage, or a rancid scent that she still can’t describe.
Parosmia has become a more common COVID symptom. However, it can also occur due to a number other medical conditions.
She Didn’t Know It Had A Name
Cano posted her now-viral clip in response to Ashley Zibetti who also suffers with parosmia. Zibetti explained that she needs a noseclip to be able to eat the food she likes.
When Cano saw the clip, she realized she wasn’t alone. The film student captured her emotional breakdown after discovering that her sense of smell had been affected by parosmia. There are many others with the same condition.
“I didn’t know this had a name,” she said through tears. “I don’t think anyone understands how much this affects your daily life. It’s not that foods taste rotten—it is that, but it’s garbage, it’s sewage… Imagine the worst smell that you have ever smelled in your life and it’s that, but everything.”
The Loss of Smell was First
Cano briefly lost her senses of smell when she was first diagnosed by COVID. The parosmia didn’t emerge until months later, and she went to doctor after doctor in an attempt to figure out what was wrong. Because doctors believed it to be an intestinal problem, she claimed she had undergone invasive procedures such as colonoscopies or a gastric emptying testing.
It wasn’t until she saw an ear, nose, and throat specialist that the symptom was connected to COVID. But she didn’t hear the term parosmia until she saw Zibetti’s TikTok video.
Cano said she’s tried a few suggestions from her new 100,000 followers, but so far none of them have worked. She did learn, though, that the smell of clove hasn’t changed. This allows her to still enjoy some of the spice’s flavors, such as Dr. Pepper, Chai, and BBQ sauce.
How long will it last?
Scientists are still trying determine what causes parosmia. According to recent research, it could be anywhere from a few days to a few more months.
“It is literally torture every single time I eat something, and I’m so terrified of food. I’ve never been a picky eater in my entire life,” Cano said. “I have zero food security because it’s not even that I can’t find anything that tastes good to me. It’s that the taste itself also changes on a month to month basis.”
Cano’s doctors have told her that she should recover within the year. But in the meantime, she’s going to visit a taste and smell specialist in Washington, DC to try a new treatment. She will also be documenting the experience via TikTok.
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