As we begin this new journey into the unknown world of global pandemics and viruses, and as information and anecdotal evidence is collected from around the world, more symptoms associated with COVID-19 have come to light. For example, if you’ve recently lost your sense of smell or taste, it could be a symptom of the novel coronavirus. Up to now, we’ve only heard the alarm sound if you develop a fever, headache, shortness of breath, or cough. But now, it is clear that the nose knows what’s going on (and possibly before the rest of your body).
For some people, it could be your only symptom, or it could be the first symptom to show up before the others. Either way, it’s your cue to stay home and take care of yourself. By that I mean ramp up immune support supplements (think of C, D, E and zinc), drink some natural herbal teas (here’s a VIDEO to make one using echinacea, ELDERBERRY and orange peel) and eat healthy foods. But mainly, hole up at home for at least 7 days (preferably 14) so you don’t infect others unknowingly.
Warnings are now being made, and rightfully so, because these painless distortions of taste and smell often go under your radar until later, when a full-blown infection becomes more apparent. That’s one concern. The bigger concern is that as a carrier of COVID-19, these minor, painless symptoms might be all you experience while you infect others. So please be compassionate to others if you suddenly experience these symptoms:
Hyposmia – Reduced sense of smell
Anosmia – Complete loss of smell
Dysgeusia – Distorted or reduced sense of taste
Ageusia – Complete lack of taste
We don’t know if these symptoms are reversible. We do know that the 4 symptoms above are often associated with viral respiratory diseases, that is nothing new. As an example of that, when you had a cold, or the Flu, you surely remember these symptoms: Appetite goes down, food is unappreciated and it’s impossible to smell anything even if you don’t have a stuffy nose! But after the shivers depart, you can smell again. And you want to eat! In these cases, the 4 symptoms above almost always abate.
So again, these are typical symptoms for upper respiratory tract infections. It’s no surprise they’re now associated with coronavirus. We’ve known for a long time that viral related anosmia occurs in up to 40% adults who’ve had a cold or flu. Post infection (aka post viral) anosmia has been traditionally associated with middle age women (between 40 and 60 yo), but with COVID, I have a feeling the demographics are different and men are equally affected.
There’s Your Sign…
With COVID-19, we’re seeing these symptoms pretty significantly and it should serve as a cue. If you develop this symptom (and it may be your only symptom), let it serve as your cue to self-isolate so you don’t infect others.
In Germany, 2 of 3 cases have reported anosmia or hyposmia. That’s 66% of corona cases! China has a significant number of cases as well. In South Korea, researchers have reported the same, and you can CLICK HERE to read an article entitled, Epidemiology of Anosmia in South Korea: A Nationwide Population-Based Study. They’ve stated, “Anosmia can be frequently under-diagnosed in the clinical environment because the elderly and the low-income people easily underestimate their anosmia symptom and ignore the severity due to their economic problem.”
European officials have come together recently to give us their own warning. According to ENT UK (Ear Nose & Throat of United Kingdom) at The Royal College of Surgeons of England “In South Korea, where testing has been more widespread, 30% of patients testing positive have had anosmia as their major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases.”
Practitioners Should Be Asking One More Question
As for health care workers and practitioners, let my information be something that you routinely ask your patients, “Do you have any sudden problems with your ability to taste or smell things?”
Start asking that now, even if you’re short on time, or you practice on Telehealth.
It’s such a simple question. It’s a yes or no.
If it’s a “yes,” then it could clue you in that your patient has a virus, maybe even coronavirus, and you’d be able to determine this even before the test is conducted. Knowing the answer to such a simple question gives everyone time to TURN ON their immune system, seek medical attention, alert family members in case something goes awry in the middle of the night, but mostly, know to avoid infecting others which gives us more control of this pandemic.
We will be able to reduce the number of infected individuals, by taking notes about this important symptom and then, taking action.
Before you get too nervous, I want you to know that medications can also contribute or cause anosmia. As a pharmacist, we are trained to see these as temporary side effects of a drug, and right now, I want you to double-check to see if you take any of the following because they may cause a reduction in smell, or a distortion in taste. This is a list of popular drugs, and it is NOT intended to be a complete list:
Medications That May Cause of Anosmia
Phenothiazines (Sometimes used for mental health, but also hiccups, nausea. The drugs include prochlorperazine, chlorpromazine, fluphenazine, thioridazine)
Azithromycin (used for COVID-19)
Statin cholesterol reducers: Atorvastatin (Lipitor®), Pravastatin (Pravachol®, Lovastatin (Mevacor®) and others)
Nasal sprays that are zinc based
Decongestant nasal sprays
* Benzodiazepines (clonazepam, diazepam, alprazolam) are associated with taste disorders mainly, not so much smell reduction but because they’re such popular drugs I’m putting them on my list.
Other Conditions that Can Cause of Anosmia
Nasal polyps, nerve injury or head trauma
Inhalation of toxic chemicals or pesticides
8 Things You Should Do if You Suddenly Lose Your Sense of Smell or Taste and it’s NOT related to a medication that you normally take:
1. Self isolate because it may be associated with COVID-19
2. Call your practitioner to alert them of the symptom
3. Get tested if you can
4. Monitor for any other symptoms that may begin (ie headache, fever, cough, etc.)
5. Take immunosupportive supplements that provide antioxidant protection at times of stress. (Popular ones right now include D and C.)
6. I’m okay with Elderberry! LOL please read my rant HERE.
7. Use a Neti pot to rinse your nose with the special salt water solution. Read my other article on Neti pots and sinus problems because these articles will give you some good healing advice:
The loss of smell can be partial (hyposmia) or complete (anosmia). For some it is the ONLY symptom, and for others, it’s the FIRST of many symptoms that morph into an upper respiratory infection (and possibly COVID-19). The milder the case, the easier to heal from it I suspect. Just like other coughs/colds and flu symptoms, it almost always goes away, but with COVID-19 it’s a little too soon for me to confirm that. There isn’t an effective known ‘cure’ that you could immediately administer, however there may be a gradual recovery for some individuals. I can also speculate with you about this until we have more information.
I am a big believer in essential oils. They are the ‘oil’ portion that distills from a plant, and I am diffusing eucalyptus in my home every day just because it has strong anti-viral activity. You can inhale it straight from the bottle. Does it cure anosmia? Of course not! But it’s great in terms of its ability to support your body with a strong, well known flu fighter! Referring to several here that you can learn about if you wish to: cineole (Eucalyptol), alpha pinene, delta limonene and terpineol.
Bergamot Essential Oil (EO) is another useful option for viruses, especially influenza. There is research for it. You can take a whiff of this pleasant citrus EO or mix it with Eucalyptus in your diffuser. Just aromatize your house to help clean it up!
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence (as well as clinical research) to support the use of essential oils for many health concerns. There is really no harm if you use them properly.
Which brings me to my next thought, and while it’s intended to be sarcastic, I want you to really think about this…
Suddenly Anecdotal Evidence Matters.
The warning about anosmia is being taken quite seriously and it should be. I’m glad that anecdotal evidence has allowed us to discover new symptoms, which help protect us as a population from the pandemic. Those of you who follow me know that I am a pharmacist that is passionate about holistic, herbal remedies (plant-based medicine, vitamins, essential oils, etc).
So I believe in anecdotal evidence because sometimes that’s all you can find. Clinical studies cost 6 or 7 figures; that’s why only big corporations or pharmaceutical companies fund them! That’s why most of the research is on a medication or patented drug compound. You don’t see drug companies funding studies on lavender, echinacea or calendula for example. But here comes my point…
It’s head-scratching that many hard-core conventional researchers and medical doctors suddenly believe in ‘anecdotal’ evidence that has accumulated over just 3 months, but will completely dismiss anecdotal evidence about herbal medications that have collected over centuries! Not only dismiss it, but with great disdain! It’s due to brainwashing, don’t you think? And there’s a ton of money to lose if word gets out that plants you can grow in your own backyard can heal you.
So the campaign to mock herbs, and to dismiss “anecdotal evidence” for them will persist until the debacle of the current healthcare system prides itself on the next best drug. (Not that they’re not good; they’re good, some are great, but herbs are too). At some point in the future, but not in my lifetime, we will go back to nature and find out that the healing plants were right under our nose. We didn’t need to screw around with them in a lab to get a patent. They were right there, and bloomed with glorious perfection. Roses gives us rose hips, Oranges gives us orange peel, Echinacea and Elderberry are plants that offer benefits in terms of immune function.* There is Artemesinin, Andrographis, Olive Leaf, Eucalyptus and others.
What’s wrong with these plants? Nothing. And that is my point. They are true perfection and will prove to be very useful right now.
As I see it, if a disease is natural and came from the planet Earth, the cure is from the Earth too. We just have to dig harder and find it. Anecdotal evidence matters. Obviously! We’re using it right now to control a global pandemic. So tell me again, what exactly is wrong with eucalyptus?
Some research studies indicate that “smell training” can be particularly helpful to people with anosmia and they use eucalyptus as part of the protocol. The researchers have ironically found that actively sniffing various scents such as essential oils may help the olfactory receptor cells regenerate. If this problem is something you are currently dealing with, either from a prior COVID infection, or Flu, or nasal polyps… consider this WEBSITE which offers more information on “smell training” to help you recover. The suggestion is for Rose, Eucalyptus, Lemon and Clove. They’re suggesting these to help with smell retraining, but as I type those EOs out here I realize they are all amazing and powerful for ANYONE who wants to diffuse those in the home, or just take a whiff straight out of the bottle! Read more HERE.
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Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.