Why do I have a weird taste in my mouth? 8 possible causes
Find out if the weird taste in your mouth is caused by gum disease, medication, dry mouth or a more serious illness.
Occasionally having a bad taste in your mouth is totally normal. But if you’ve had a strange taste in your mouth for days, it could be a sign of an underlying dental or medical problem. While the most common causes may not be serious, it’s best to discuss treatment with your dentist.
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What’s causing the weird taste in my mouth?
1. Gum disease
If you’re experiencing a strange metallic taste in your mouth, chances are it’s caused by gum disease, such as gingivitis or periodontitis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adults age 30 and older suffer from some form of gum disease¹. Bad breath or a weird taste in your mouth is a common symptom².
What to do about it:
Make an appointment to see your dentist. Your dentist will be able to check your teeth, determine whether the bad taste in your mouth is a sign of gum disease, and provide a treatment plan.
As gum diseases could be caused by poor oral hygiene, it’s important to take good care of your teeth at home as well.
The American Dental Association (2019) recommends that all adults do the following³:
Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
Clean between teeth daily
Eat a healthy diet that limits sugary beverages and snacks
See a dentist regularly for prevention and treatment of oral disease
2. Over-the-counter or prescription medications
Studies have shown that over 350 medications in all major drug categories have elicited taste complaints, often leaving a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth⁴. Vitamins, supplements⁵, and cancer treatments such as chemotherapy⁶ can do so as well.
What to do about it:
Consult your doctor to find out if any medications you’re currently taking might be causing the bitter taste in your mouth and to discuss alternatives.
3. Dry mouth
Xerostomia, or dry mouth, occurs when saliva flow is reduced. Along with leaving a weird taste in your mouth, it can cause difficulties in tasting, chewing, swallowing, and even speaking⁷. It’s a relatively common condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including medications, aging, menopause, and diabetes.
What to do about it:
If you suspect you’re suffering from dry mouth, make an appointment with your dentist. They’ll be able to confirm a diagnosis, relieve discomfort, and treat the problem in order to prevent any complications.
4. Burning mouth syndrome
Along with the bad taste in your mouth, does it also feel as though your mouth has been burned with hot coffee? You might be suffering from burning mouth syndrome. This condition can affect the roof of the mouth, the tongue, the gums, the back of the mouth or throat, and the inside of the cheeks⁸ It’s often accompanied by a bitter or metallic taste.
What to do about it:
If you’re experiencing a burning sensation in the mouth along with the strange taste, make an appointment with your dentist who can confirm the diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
5. Oral thrush
Oral thrush is a fungal infection in the mouth that can leave a metallic taste in the mouth. It often causes white spots to appear on the tongue, mouth, or throat. Oral thrush is common among denture wearers and people with weak immune systems.⁹
What to do about it:
Make an appointment with your dentist if you suspect you might have thrush. In the meantime, practice good oral hygiene. Clean your dentures regularly, if applicable.
6. Respiratory infections
Certain illnesses or infections can cause a weird taste in your mouth. Tonsillitis, sinus infections, ear infections, and the common cold can all leave your mouth tasting bitter or metallic.¹⁰
What to do about it:
If the strange taste in your mouth is a symptom of a cold or other minor infection, it’ll likely go away once the infection is properly treated. Visit your doctor if symptoms persist. In the meantime, drink plenty of fluids and get some rest.
Hormones present during pregnancy can cause dysgeusia, or a change in your sense of taste.¹¹ They can cause you to lose a taste for foods you used to love or enjoy foods you’ve always disliked. Pregnancy hormones can also cause a metallic or sour taste in your mouth even when you’re not eating anything.
What to do about it:
Be patient. Though dysgeusia can last throughout the whole nine months, it’s most common during the first trimester. It may be annoying, but it won’t last forever and it’s no cause for concern. Practice good oral hygiene and eat the foods you can.
8. More serious illnesses
If you aren’t experiencing any other symptoms, the metallic taste in your mouth likely isn’t a sign of serious illness. However, in some cases, a strange metallic taste in the mouth could be a symptom of diabetes, neurological conditions like dementia, liver disease, kidney disease, or even certain cancers¹².
What to do about it:
If you’re experiencing other serious symptoms along with a metallic taste in your mouth, see a doctor. Be sure to tell them about all of the symptoms you’re experiencing, even if they seem unrelated.
How can I fix the strange taste in my mouth?
The quickest way to get to the root of the problem is by making an appointment with a dentist. If you don’t have dental insurance, consider purchasing individual dental insurance before scheduling your checkup in order to help save money. Most checkups and cleanings are 100% covered by individual dental insurance, while basic procedures are often covered up to 70%.¹³
If you’re experiencing other serious symptoms in addition to the weird taste in your mouth or if you suspect your medications might be causing it, consult your doctor.
The following can help you deal with the bad taste in your mouth in the meantime:
Brush your teeth (and tongue) at least twice a day
Floss every day
Chew sugar-free gum
Don’t skip breakfast
Drink plenty of water
No matter the cause of the weird taste in your mouth, rest assured that it doesn’t have to last forever. Practicing good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist will help you fix the problem so you can keep your mouth tasting clean and fresh.
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Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. It is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.
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https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/periodontal-disease.html (Last accessed February 2020)
https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/g/gum-disease (Last accessed February 2020)
https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/home-care (Last accessed February 2020)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6051304/ (Last accessed February 2020)
https://www.rug.nl/research/portal/files/41125904/Chapter\_4\_.pdf (Last accessed February 2020)
https://www.npr.org/2014/04/07/295800503/chemo-can-make-food-taste-like-metal-heres-help (Last accessed February 2020)
https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/xerostomia (Last accessed February 2020)
http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/patient\_53.ashx (Last accessed February 2020)
https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/thrush (Last accessed February 2020)
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/metallic-taste/ (Last accessed February 2020)
https://utswmed.org/medblog/weird-pregnancy-symptoms/ (Last accessed February 2020)
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/8-possible-causes-for-that-metallic-taste-in-your-mouth/ (Last accessed February 2020)
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Millions of COVID-19 survivors have lost senses of smell and taste. Researchers don't know if they'll come back
Edelmira Rivera was lying on her bed with her husband and 16-month-old son, selecting a movie when she heard a loud bang outside their home in Waco, Texas.
Her sister screamed, "Fire!"
"I dropped everything and just grabbed my son and his blanket," said Rivera, 22. "I could not smell anything. I was so shocked to see the fire at the front door."
Rivera tested positive for COVID-19 and lost her sense of smell Jan. 14. Early the next morning, a fire broke out on the other side of her bedroom wall, less than a foot from where she was lying. Rivera couldn't smell it, nor could the family of four who was staying with them.
Her sister, Bianca, 19, smelled something burning from the other side of the house, initially thinking her sister had burned popcorn in the kitchen. When she smelled burning plastic, Bianca Rivera walked out of her room and saw smoke in the hallway. She quickly ushered seven people and three dogs out of the home before fire consumed it.
Like Edelmira Rivera, millions of people worldwide have suffered changes to their sense of smell or taste after contracting COVID-19. In most cases, the symptoms usually last only a few weeks.
A year into the pandemic, researchers aren't sure when some COVID-19 survivors may get their senses back – if ever – and the loss carries long-term safety, hygiene and psychiatric implications.
"As the pandemic has rolled on, we've gotten a better idea about the long-term, chronic effects of COVID on smell and taste," said Dr. Jay Piccirillo, an ENT and professor at the Washington University School of Medicine who studies the topic. "The things we've learned suggest that most people recover smell and taste, but not all."
A million new survivors with chronically diminished senses?
In the coming year, there will be at least a million new cases of people in the USA with chronically diminished senses of smell or taste because of COVID-19, Piccirillo predicted.
Studies published by the National Library of Medicine and the Journal of Internal Medicine suggest up to 80% of people who have COVID-19 symptoms experience smell or taste dysfunction. Some experience reduced ability to smell or taste. Some have a complete loss. And some experience distorted senses – certain tastes and smells change or become unpleasant – an increasingly common outcome, called "parosmia."
Dr. Evan Reiter, an ENT and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies the issue, said the rate of patients who report dysfunction with smell is similar to those having trouble with taste.
Fact check:Burnt oranges, brown sugar won't restore senses lost to COVID-19
"In general, anytime you’re eating something, it hits the taste buds in your mouth, and you’re smelling the vapors in your food at the same time, so your brain puts it all together to determine how you perceive the taste of food," Reiter said.
Most people regain their senses within a few weeks, but 5%-10% will continue to have symptoms after six months, Piccirillo said. Their senses may not ever return, he said.
Scientists have known since the early days of the pandemic that smell-taste disturbance is associated with milder cases of COVID-19 and cases in younger people. A study published this month in the Journal of Internal Medicine reinforced the conclusions.
Sniffing out COVID-19:Ohio State study proposes using hard candy to test for symptoms
Among more than 2,500 COVID-19 patients at 18 European hospitals in the study, more than 74% self-reported a distorted sense of smell and 46% a distorted sense of taste. The majority in both categories were younger patients and those with milder cases.
The good news is that more than half of the patients with smell distortions saw their symptoms disappear within a month, rising to 95% of patients by six months, according to the study. For those remaining 5%, the future remains unclear.
Dr. Pam Dalton, a researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, said patients should not give up hope. Some people who lost their sense of smell because of rhinoviruses, which cause common colds, regained it after several years, she said.
"There is evidence from other viruses that may disrupt the system in different ways that recovery can occur after six months," Dalton said. "There isn't a cutoff beyond which all hope should be abandoned."
'It can be depressing and upsetting'
Loss of smell or taste can have a severe impact on quality of life and make it harder to identify dangers in the environment, such as gas leaks or spoiled food, experts said. For professions that rely on the senses, loss of smell or taste can be career-ending. It can alter relationships, degrade mental health and result in severe weight loss or gain.
New York City resident Lyss Stern, 46, said she's gained 30 pounds since she lost her senses of smell and taste in late March, when she had a mild case of COVID-19 for six weeks. She's too fatigued to exercise, and she eats a lot of carbs because she likes the way they feel in her mouth.
Tracking COVID-19 vaccine distribution by state:How many people have been vaccinated in the USA?
Stern said she identified a dozen foods she can still taste, and she goes to the same pickle shop every week to stock up on a variety of flavors. In December, Stern smelled an orange again for the first time and started crying. A few weeks ago, she got a whiff of a cookie when she walked past a bakery.
"It can be depressing and upsetting," Stern said. "Everything to me just tastes gross. But I’m not going to let that get me down – now or ever. I’m here. So many people didn’t survive this beast."
Stern said her family is moving to another apartment, and she plans to set up smoke and gas detectors in the new home right away. "It’s very scary," Stern said. "If there's a leak, I can't smell it."
Many patients who lose their sense of smell or taste struggle with social anxiety and hygiene concerns, experts said. Piccirillo said parents often report wishing they knew when their child's diaper needed to be changed – and when they may unknowingly be subjecting friends or family to a foul smell.
"People will report never wearing an item of clothing more than once because they're afraid it might smell of their body odor and they can’t detect it. And the same thing goes with a lot of different social interactions," Dalton said.
Gail Pav, 53, of Long Beach, Mississippi, has to ask her husband to taste-test their meals and let her know when there's something smelly in the trash can. She had a mild case of COVID-19 in September – a stuffy nose for a few days but never a fever. Ever since, her senses have been off.
"This week, the coffee was tasting funny. I’ve been having some really weird smells going on, like fuel. It’s so weird," said Pav, who still wears perfume every day. "I've got a new grandbaby, and I just want to be able to smell Stella."
For some COVID-19 survivors, the loss of smell or taste can be "crippling," Piccirillo said. "With all the quality of life problems (during the pandemic), to now be isolated by sense of smell or worse, distortion – it's very sad," he said.
Simone Wildes, an infectious disease physician at South Shore Health in Massachusetts, said it's frustrating that there are "no specific therapies or more supportive advice" she can give to patients. Many of her patients with loss of smell or taste have turned to online support groups.
As reports of more transmissible coronavirus variants increase, Wildes said she's worried greater spread may result in more cases with loss of smell or taste.
"It does not have to be deadly for you to end up with something very distressing in your life," Wildes said. "For some people, it’s temporary, but for some, it may be permanent."
A 'tidal wave' of trial participants
Research into how the coronavirus disrupts senses of taste and smell is ongoing. In July, dozens of researchers published a paper suggesting the coronavirus changes the sense of smell in patients not by directly infecting smell-detecting neurons but by affecting the function of supporting cells.
Researchers are beginning to look at human autopsy data to assess the initial theory, said Dr. Sandeep Robert Datta, a professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and one of the study co-authors. Data available is "broadly consistent" with the hypothesis, Datta said, but he's keeping an open mind.
"Never before in recent medical history have there been so many people who have lost their sense of smell or lost taste for this period of time," Datta said. "We need to make a serious basic science effort to help physicians deal with the patients who are flooding their offices."
Other researchers look into whether the coronavirus attacks the taste system independently of the smell system.
Are patients losing taste as a direct result of smell loss? Or are they losing chemical sensitivity in their mouths? Valentina Parma, a researcher at Temple University who studies the senses of smell and taste, said "the jury is still out" on what mechanism affects taste in patients with COVID-19.
The science behind smell loss:Why do so many COVID-19 patients lose their sense of smell? Scientists now know.
Treatment options for people with loss or distortion of smell or taste are limited, experts said. There's some research on steroid and vitamin treatments. There's also a long-used technique called olfactory training, in which patients who lost their sense of smell sniff various oils for a brief time each day for several weeks.
"For those patients who have (distortions of smell), we think it's some sort of miswiring. When they see coffee, they small oranges," Piccirillo said. "Through olfactory training, you can maybe rewire them. That’s the hypothesis."
Piccirillo and his team are conducting an olfactory training trial with COVID-19 patients. The training traditionally features four scents: rose, lemon, clove and eucalyptus. For his trial, Piccirillo allows one group of participants to select their preferred scents to test whether the approach is more effective with scents that are important to people.
"The No. 1 scent people want to train on? Smoke," Piccirillo said. "It’s makes them so scared they can’t smell smoke or natural gas."
Piccirillo and his team have seen a "tidal wave" of study participants. They're starting a clinical trial looking at the drug theophylline, a common asthma medicine.
Reiter and Dalton are working with their teams to track the recoveries of COVID-19 patients who lost their sense of smell. Dalton and her team are developing a smell screening test to identify people who may have COVID-19. They deploy the tests to drive-up clinics, as well as Yale University, where some students take the smell test in addition to twice-weekly molecular tests.
"It’s really discouraging with so many people now suffering or who will be suffering," Piccirillo said. "Any way you slice it, this is a big problem and presents a real challenge to the scientific community to start finding some effective treatment options for people."
Bianca Rivera, who got her family and friends out of the house fire, doesn't know why she never contracted COVID-19, even after extended exposure to her family and friends when they moved into hotel rooms together after the blaze.
Her sister, Edelmira, regained her sense of smell a few days after the fire, which is under investigation. The family plans to rebuild their home and install smoke detectors.
"Losing all my shoes, clothes – none of that matters to me. It can be replaced. Not having a home for my son ... I’m grateful that I still have him. I'm still alive to see him grow," she said.
Rivera said she was initially "skeptical" about COVID-19.
"I thought it was a hoax. I thought it was fake. But actually going through it and losing my smell, it’s scary," she said. "So take it as a reminder to take care of your home, and to take care of yourself."
Follow breaking news reporter Grace Hauck on Twitter at @grace_hauck.
View CommentsSours: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2021/01/31/covid-19-survivors-smell-taste-symptoms-coronavirus/4292727001/
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A metallic taste is not usually serious and can be a symptom of many different things. Treatment will depend on the cause.
Common causes of metallic taste
|Cause||What you can do|
|Gum disease||regularly brush your teeth, use dental floss, have a dental check-up every 6 months|
|Taking medicine, like metronidazole||speak to a pharmacist for advice – do not stop taking prescribed medicine without medical advice|
|Cancer treatment, like chemotherapy or radiation therapy||eat stronger tasting food like ginger, spices and boiled sweets|
|Colds, sinus infections and other airway problems||the taste should go away once the problem has cleared up|
|Indigestion||the taste should go away after treating indigestion|
|Being pregnant||the taste is usually temporary and clears up by itself|
Sometimes, a metallic taste can be linked to a problem with your sense of smell.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- the metallic taste does not go away
- the metallic taste has no obvious cause
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP
It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:
- visit their website
- use the NHS App
- call them
Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19
Page last reviewed: 09 September 2020
Next review due: 09 September 2023
Why Do I Have a Bad Taste in My Mouth?
Everybody has a bad taste in their mouth occasionally. It usually goes away after brushing your teeth or rinsing out your mouth.
However, in some cases the bad taste sticks around due to an underlying cause. Regardless of what’s causing it, having a bad taste in your mouth can ruin your appetite, possibly leading to nutritional deficiencies and other problems.
If the bad taste doesn’t go away after a day or two, work with your doctor to figure out what’s causing it. Also be sure to tell them about any changes in your appetite or sense of smell.
Read on to learn more about the causes of a bad taste in your mouth and get some tips on how to keep your mouth tasting fresh.
What’s considered a bad taste?
The definition of a bad taste varies from person to person. For some people, the unpleasant taste in their mouth is metallic. For others, it may be bitter or foul, depending on the cause. You might even notice a diminished sense of taste during meals.
Oral causes of a bad taste in the mouth
Poor hygiene and dental problems
The most common reasons for a bad taste in your mouth have to do with dental hygiene. Not flossing and brushing regularly can cause gingivitis, which can cause a bad taste in your mouth.
Dental problems, such as infections, abscesses, and even wisdom teeth coming in, can also cause a bad taste.
Other symptoms of dental problems include:
- bad breath
- bleeding, red, or swollen gums
- sensitive teeth
- loose teeth
You can avoid most common dental problems by regularly flossing and brushing your teeth. It’s also important to regularly visit your dentist for cleanings and exams. You can also add an antibacterial mouth rinse to your dental routine for added protection.
Dry mouth, sometimes called xerostomia, happens when your salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva. This can cause a dry, sticky feeling inside your mouth.
Saliva reduces the growth of bacteria in your mouth and helps to remove bits of food. When you don’t have enough saliva, you might have a bad taste in your mouth due to extra bacteria and leftover food there.
Several things can cause dry mouth, including:
If you have dry mouth, work with your doctor to figure out what’s causing it. Most people with dry mouth find relief through lifestyle changes, medication adjustments, and OTC or prescription mouth rinses.
Thrush is a type of yeast infection that grows in warm, moist areas, including your mouth. Anyone can develop oral thrush, but babies, older adults, and people with suppressed immune systems are more likely to get it.
Oral thrush can also cause:
- white bumps
- redness, burning, or soreness
- trouble swallowing
- dry mouth
Regularly flossing, brushing, and rinsing out your mouth can help prevent oral thrush. Also try to limit your intake of sugar because yeast feeds on it.
Always contact your doctor if you have white spots in your mouth, even if you don’t have any other symptoms.
Infections in your system, especially viral infections, can affect the taste in your mouth. Tonsillitis, sinusitis, colds, and middle ear infections frequently affect your senses of taste and smell.
Additional symptoms of an infection in your respiratory system include:
Viral infections usually clear up on their own within one to two weeks. The bad taste should go away once the infection clears up.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver. One of its early symptoms is a bitter taste in your mouth.
Other early symptoms of hepatitis B include:
- bad breath
- loss of appetite
- low-grade fever
- nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
Hepatitis B is a serious infection. If you have symptoms or think you’ve been exposed to the virus, contact your doctor.
In addition to a bad taste in your mouth, medications for hepatitis C can also affect your sense of smell. The taste should go away once you finish the medication.
The hormonal fluctuations of early pregnancy can cause many sensory changes. You might crave foods you’ve never wanted before or suddenly find certain smells repulsive. Many women also report having a bad taste, usually a metallic one, in their mouth during their first trimester. While the taste may be annoying, it’s usually harmless and goes away later in your pregnancy. Learn more about the metallic taste in your mouth during pregnancy.
Women who are going through menopause or are about to often mention having a bitter taste in their mouth. This is usually caused by dry mouth, which is a common symptom of menopause.
Another possible cause of a bitter taste in your mouth during menopause is burning mouth syndrome. This is a rare condition, but your risk of developing it increases after menopause due to lower levels of estrogen. In addition to a bitter taste in your mouth, you may also feel a burning sensation, especially near the tip of your tongue. These symptoms may come and go.
If you’re going through menopause or are about to and have a bad taste in your mouth, talk to your doctor about possible treatment options. For some women, hormone replacement therapy can help.
Bile and acid reflux have similar symptoms and can happen at the same time. They’re caused by either bile, a fluid made in your liver that helps digestion, or stomach acid moving up through your esophagus.
Both can cause a sour taste in your mouth, in addition to:
- upper abdominal pain
- nausea and vomiting
- coughing and hoarseness
If you have frequent symptoms of bile or acid reflux, see your doctor. There are a variety of OTC and prescription medications that can help. Acid reflux can sometimes progress to a chronic condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Home care tips include avoiding foods that trigger heartburn, eating smaller meals, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Medications and other substances
Vitamins and dietary supplements
Many vitamins and supplements can cause a metallic taste in your mouth, especially if you take them in large amounts.
Some of the most common vitamins and supplements that can cause a metallic taste include:
- multivitamins or prenatal vitamins that contain heavy metals
- vitamin D
- zinc, which can also cause nausea
Many OTC and prescription medications can also cause a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth.
OTC medications that can affect your sense of taste include:
Prescription medications that can cause an unusual taste in your mouth include:
There are many chemotherapy medications used to treat cancer. Treatment with chemotherapy usually involves a combination of these, and many of them can cause a metallic or sour taste.
Radiation therapy can also cause a metallic taste, especially when it’s used to treat head and neck cancers.
Any unusual tastes caused by chemotherapy or radiation usually go away once you’re done with treatment.
Your taste buds are connected to nerves in the brain. Anything that affects these nerves can cause a bad taste in your mouth.
Conditions that might affect the nerves in your brain include:
Some of the medications used to treat these neurological conditions can also cause an unusual taste in your mouth. This usually goes away after you treat the underlying condition.
The bottom line
If you have an unexplained bad taste in your mouth, make an appointment with your doctor to find the underlying cause.
During your appointment, make sure you tell your doctor:
- all the medications and supplements you take
- any other symptoms you have, even if they seem unrelated
- any previously diagnosed medical conditions
In the meantime, using mouthwash or chewing gum may offer temporary relief until you see your doctor.
Mouth burnt in plastic taste
COVID-19 and the loss of smell
A recent studyof data collected from several countries determined that the loss of sense of smell was one of the top five most common symptoms experienced by those with COVID-19. Fever, cough, fatigue and trouble breathing are the other four most common symptoms.
While most people regain their sense of smell along with the sense of taste that is also commonly lost due to COVID-19, some people don’t regain these senses for weeks or longer after their recovery. Researchersare currently investigating whether the coronavirus affects sensory neurons in the nose, rather than simply causing inflammation and stuffiness, as you might experience during a cold.
“People may be familiar with changes to their sense of smell and taste during common colds, but we’re finding that COVID-19 might actually lead to a change in the cells of the nose,” says Dr. Eric Mair, chief of otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat)with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “While most people regain these senses after recovering from COVID-19, we are seeing some ‘long-haulers,’ or people who have symptoms for months, not regain their ability to smell and taste for extended periods of time.”
According to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), approximately 10% of people with COVID-19 are long-haulers. However, because the disease is so new, it is currently impossible to know exactly how many people will experience symptoms beyond the normal timeframe of about two weeks, and when — or if — those that lost their sense of smell and taste will regain them.
“There is no way to tell exactly who will experience symptoms longer than others,” Dr. Mair says. “Some who had mild cases may experience lingering symptoms, such as loss of smell and fatigue, while others with more severe cases may fully recover. What’s more, the lingering symptoms may not have appeared during the early days of infection, but arise later and persist for months.”
While the loss of these two senses does not seem to be one of the more dangerous symptoms of COVID-19, it can cause distress for those who experience it. People who say their sense of smell or taste was affected by COVID-19 report one or more of the following:
- A total loss of smell
- A total loss of taste
- A constant smoky, burnt plastic, chemical, bitter, sour, feces-like or soapy smell
- A metal-, chemical- or plastic-like taste
- Loss of appetite
- Unintended weight loss
“We know COVID-19 affects both physical and mental health in a variety of ways,” Dr. Mair says. “However, research also tells us smell and taste are linked to our memories and emotions, and their loss can lead to depressed mood and anxiety. It is important to work with your doctor to determine what treatments, both medical and psychological, might help as you recover from COVID-19.”
Learn what Sharp HealthCare is doing in response to COVID-19.
Long COVID symptoms may include parosmia as people report 'disgusting' smells of fish, burning and sulphur
People suffering from long COVID are reporting a strong smell of fish, sulphur and a sweet sickly odour, as further symptoms of the virus emerge.
The unusual side-effect is known as parosmia - meaning a distortion of smell - and may be disproportionately affecting young people and healthcare workers.
Ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon Professor Nirmal Kumar called the symptom "very strange and very unique".
Prof Kumar, who is also the president of ENT UK, was among the first medics to identify anosmia - loss of smell - as a coronavirus indicator in March.
He urged Public Health England to add it to the symptom list months before it became official guidance.
He has now noted that among the thousands of patients being treated for long-term anosmia across the UK, some are experiencing parosmia.
Prof Kumar told Sky News that patients experience olfactory hallucinations, meaning "sense of smell is distorted, and mostly unpleasantly, unfortunately".
More on Covid-19
He added that it is "really disturbing patients and their quality of life is hugely impacted".
Long COVID is a term to describe the effects of coronavirus that can continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness.
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Describing it as a "neurotropic virus", Prof Kumar explained: "This virus has an affinity for the nerves in the head and in particular, the nerve that controls the sense of smell.
"But it probably affects other nerves too and it affects, we think, neurotransmitters - the mechanisms that send messages to the brain."
He added: "Some people are reporting hallucinations, sleep disturbances, alterations in hearing.
"We don't know exact mechanisms, but we and finding ways to try and help patients recover."
Daniel Saveski, a 24-year-old banker living in London, said he lost his sense of taste and smell for two weeks after contracting coronavirus in March, and has been suffering with parosmia since.
Mr Saveski, from West Yorkshire, said strong-smelling things like bins now have a burning, sulphur-like odour, or smell "like toast".
He added: "It's lessened my enjoyment of food, and it's a bit depressing not being able to smell certain foods."
Lynn Corbett, an administrator for an estate agent, said she was "shocked" to wake up on her 52nd birthday in March with "absolutely no smell or taste".
Ms Corbett, from Selsey in Sussex, said: "From March right through to around the end of May I couldn't taste a thing - I honestly think I could have bitten into a raw onion such was my loss of taste."
She said her sense of smell began to return in June, but "nothing smelled like it should".
"Most things smelled disgusting, this sickly sweet smell which is hard to describe as I've never come across it before."
She said that despite previously being a "coffee addict", the drink now smells "unbearable", as do beer and petrol.
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While she's not sure whether she'll ever regain her sense of smell, Ms Corbett said: "I'm okay with it, I just think myself lucky that if I did have coronavirus, which it looks like I did, then I haven't been seriously ill, hospitalised or died from it like so many others."
Charity AbScent, which supports people with smell disorders, is gathering information from thousands of anosmia and parosmia patients in partnership with ENT UK and the British Rhinological Society to aid the development of therapies.
They recommend anyone affected by parosmia to undergo "smell training", which involves sniffing rose, lemon, clove and eucalyptus oils every day for around 20 seconds in a bid to slowly regain their sense of smell.
Prof Kumar said: "There are some promising early reports that such training helps patients."
He added that most people will eventually get their normal sense of smell back.
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(CNN) – While a cough, shortness of breath and fever have characterized COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also lists “new loss of taste or smell” as one of the common symptoms, too.
Some of those suffering from that symptom say they can feel its effects even months after their original diagnosis.
“The chicken itself, ugh, it’s almost nauseating,” said Emily Welsh after taking a whiff.
“When I smell it now, it smells like burnt tires,” said Samira Jafari, who’s still trying to get her sense of smell back.
In a July study published on the JAMA Network, researchers found about 90% of patients surveyed who lost their sense of smell or taste improved or recovered within a month.
But nearly 11% said that the symptom was unchanged or worse over the same period.
“I went from no smell to like maybe 2 to 3 weeks of mild smells returning,” Jafari said. “Then, the smell went from returning gradually, slowly, mildly to just taking a very bad turn.”
For Welsh, her altered sense of smell assaults her at every turn.
“It’s been about 3 weeks since I’ve been smelling that burning plastic smell when I eat or shower, brush my teeth,” she said.
Jafari said she knows the feeling.
“You go through that maybe it’s just a weird day. Maybe something is just spoiled. Maybe the coffee is rancid and then you realize it’s not,” she said. “I thought there was really something going on in my house. I really thought something died in my garage.”
While we continue to learn more about COVID-19, Researchers say more studies are needed to determine how the virus impacts our senses.
One study published over the summer in the journal eLife found that people who tested positive for COVID-19 are 27 times more likely to lose their sense of smell than those who tested negative, making it more of an indicator of the virus can other symptoms, like a fever.
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