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Some COVID 'long haulers' suffer from parosmia, a distortion of smell, after recovery

We talked with immunologist Dr. Michael Teng about parosmia and what people are experiencing.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — "Long haulers" have been a mystery for researchers during this pandemic.

Again, "long haulers" are people who have recovered from COVID but still have symptoms. Now, more and more people are talking about having a distortion of smell or taste, or even nothing at all long after their symptoms. 

It's called parosmia. 

To learn more about this, we talked with immunologist Dr. Michael Teng with the University of South Florida.

He says this is caused by damage to the nerve that senses smell and tells your brain what you're smelling. But if you damage those nerves, they have to grow back. Sometimes they grow back the same as before you got COVID but sometimes they don't.

"But in some cases, those nerves can grow back in a little bit different way. If the connections are a little bit different, you get these, things don't smell the same to you anymore," Teng said. "You think you're smelling an orange and it smells like meat."

If you are having these issues, Teng says to talk with your doctor. 

You'll have to retrain yourself and your sense of smell and your doctor can set you up with a specialist to help you. 

There are NIH-funded studies to look at the long-term consequences of COVID as it's going to take some time to figure out what's going on.