A mum has told how Covid-19 has totally scrambled her senses so now coffee smells like car fumes, toothpaste tastes like petrol and chocolate is too disgusting to stomach.
Sarah Govier, 44, caught the virus in May and, like many others, lost her sense of smell.
But months after it came back, she was struck by a bizarre new symptom – a total distortion of her sense of smell and taste.
Sarah is hypersensitive to the smell of urine and sweat while garlic and onions reminds Sarah of a mix of wet dog and stagnant water.
The occupational therapist from Whitstable, Kent, has set up a Facebook support group where members share experiences, theories and ‘smell training’ tips.
Sarah said: ‘Garlic and onions smelt awful – I can’t even describe it, and because they’re in basically every recipe or ready meal it made cooking very challenging!
‘I have to sniff things before I ate them and it feels quite feral, like a weird kind of animal!
‘The aftertaste was often just as bad as I could taste that horrible smell, and it would also linger in the kitchen for days.’
Sarah said her colleagues tested positive in April but she didn’t have the classic symptoms of a cough and high temperature.
But one day she came home totally exhausted and developed a sore throat, so stayed off work and booked a test.
Whilst her husband Jim, 47, and kids didn’t get symptoms, the afternoon after her test, Sarah lost her senses of taste and smell.
‘I was cooking a curry and one minute I could smell it, but when I went to taste it I couldn’t taste anything’ she said.
‘I ran upstairs and sprayed some perfume on my wrist, but I couldn’t smell anything and that was when I knew I had it so I just started crying.’
Sarah got a positive test result a few days later and couldn’t smell or taste anything for five or six weeks.
It then returned for around six weeks again, before she noticed a problem.
She went out for a fry up with a friend in August and realised everything tasted very salty, and the meat was ‘floral’, like soap or perfume.
Sarah is still able to eat cheese and fish, as well as her favourite food of avocados with prawn cocktail, but is worried she’ll get bored.
She can also have potatoes, pasta, rice and porridge, but has also started eating meal replacement milkshakes for a bit of variety.
Her new diet has meant Sarah has also inadvertently lost half a stone.
Sarah’s altered sense of smell means she is hypersensitive to sweat and urine – which are more pungent than ever.
‘I can also smell sweat really strongly in situations where you wouldn’t normally notice, like just when I get a bit hot from walking the kids to school,’ she said.
‘A small bit of perspiration in my clothes smells like rotten cabbage, and when you can smell yourself all the time you get really paranoid.’
Her Facebook group, Covid Anosmia/Parosmia Support Group, now has more than 4,000 members from all over the world.
Sarah continued: ‘There’s been some parents who are miserable because they couldn’t smell their newborn baby.
‘So many celebrations and social events revolve around eating or going out to a restaurant, so right now there’s part of me that’s grateful for the restrictions stopping all that!’
Doctors have found people with Covid-19 lose their sense of smell because the virus damages the receptor nerve endings or supporting cells within their nose.
These scent-detecting nerve endings tell your brain how to interpret the chemical information that makes up a smell, and when damaged or heal incorrectly can lead to parosmia.
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