Sniffing essential oils may help COVID patients regain their sense of smell

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RICHMOND, Virginia – A new study finds that those who sniff essential oils are more likely to regain their sense of smell and taste after contracting COVID-19, especially if they are under 40. According to researchers, the common COVID symptom typically lasts up to six months for four out of five patients.

The study also shows that young coronavirus patients are more likely to recover these senses than older people. In an ongoing COVID investigation into loss of smell and taste, collecting data from 798 survivors, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) found that participants under the age of 40 recovered their senses at a rapid pace. higher than older adults.

“With our cohort, we saw a recovery rate of about 80% over a period of six months or more. However, 20% is still a lot of people, given the millions of people who have been affected by COVID-19, ”says Professor Evan Reiter, medical director of the Center for Smell and Taste Disorders at VCU Health and one of the study’s co-investigators, in an academic press release.

Pre-existing conditions can make things worse

The professor, who works in the otolaryngology-head and neck surgery department of the VCU medical school, adds that understanding the different types of symptoms and whether patients have pre-existing medical conditions can provide insights. essential information on their prognosis for recovery. . Those with a history of head injuries were less likely to regain their sense of smell. Plus, those who suffered shortness of breath fighting the virus were even less likely to quickly regain their senses.

However, people with nasal congestion were more likely to regain their sense of smell.

“The increased likelihood of recovering smell in people with nasal congestion is obvious simply because you may lose your sense of smell because you are severely congested and odors cannot enter your nose. Certainly, a subset of these congested people might have lost their sense of smell because they were severely congested, rather than because of nerve damage from the virus, as in other cases, ”says Professor Reiter.

According to the World Health Organization, there have been over 230 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide. If the survey reflects populations around the world, more than 20 million people could suffer from persistent loss of smell or taste after being diagnosed with COVID.

Since April 2020, when reports of patients losing their senses of taste and smell started to become common, VCU researchers have been working hard to determine how long the symptoms would last in order to identify treatments for those who have. lost the use of their senses.

Losing your sense of smell decreases your quality of life

To date, nearly 3,000 people in the United States have taken part in the survey, which works by tracking symptoms over time. The results proved that sensory loss can be devastating for those who experience it. In a previous survey published in April 2021, 43% of participants said they felt depressed and 56% had decreased their enjoyment of life while having a loss of smell or taste.

Unsurprisingly, those who had lost their sense of smell or taste found it difficult to enjoy food, with 87% of participants indicating that cooking and eating had become a quality of life concern. The inability to smell smoke was the most common safety risk, with almost half of all patients reporting this problem.

“An inability to smell smoke was the most common safety risk, reported by 45% of those surveyed. Loss of appetite [present in 55% of sufferers] and unintentional weight loss [in 37%] continue to pose challenges for patients. The more we learn from those who have been affected, the better we can advise their health care providers and even the people themselves on how to manage these symptoms. Through this study, we continue to get a clearer picture of the risks COVID-19 poses to quality of life, safety, health and long-term well-being while seeking answers on treatment ”, said Dr Daniel Coelho, head of the study. author.

How can essential oils help?

According to scientists, learning to smell with the help of powerful essential oils can help regain lost senses.

“I continue to recommend it to my patients. It’s inexpensive and low-risk, ”says Professor Reiter.

The Olfactory Clinical Working Group, made up of an international group of physicians with a strong interest in research into the sense of smell, recommended essential oils as a treatment option earlier this year. The group found that when a person loses their sense of smell (olfactory dysfunction), smelling essential oils can help promote recovery of damaged nerves.

“I would also say that it can potentially allow people to be a bit more in tune with their remaining level of function, which could make them more responsive and better able to use the remaining working sensors and neurons. “, adds Reiter.

For those who might fear losing their minds, Prof Reiter confirmed that the best possible prevention method would be to start snorting essential oils.

“What the CDC and WHO have said – getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, washing your hands – all the seemingly simple things that are readily available at least here in the United States, thankfully, are important. To prevent these long term consequences, you really need to minimize your chances of getting the disease in the first place because, once it does, we currently have no way of influencing its course or severity. Prevention is worth a thousand pounds of cure, in this case, because the cure is not there, ”concludes the professor.

Can an implant restore your ability to smell?

However, there is even more hope, as Dr Coelho, along with his study colleague Dr Richard Costanzo, professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at VCU, developed an implant device to restore the smell of people. . The couple are optimistic that when it is operational it could be a source of hope for those living with lasting loss of smell.

The results appear in the American Journal of Otolaryngology.

South West News Service reporter Georgia Lambert contributed to this report.


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