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Lost your sense of smell to COVID? Here are some coping strategies to love food again

woman eating a burrito
Dusan Jovic

Two common side effects of COVID-19 are loss of sense of smell and taste. While there's currently no cure, a local researcher recently published her findings on coping mechanisms.

Katie Phillips, M.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery at the UC College of Medicine. She says there are clinical trials and olfactory training exercises to help people regain their sense of smell and flavor, but not much is being done to help people enjoy food.

"I've seen a lot of patients with these disorders and what I've noticed over and over again is the quality of life impacts and the depression almost associated with this significant decrease in their ability to detect flavor and enjoy food."

She talked with her patients about how they were coping with the loss and began to notice several trends. She and her colleagues decided to do a qualitative study on coping strategies in order to provide a tool for helping others.

She was interested to hear many of her patients were focusing on texture, like the crunch of carrots or the roughness of a strawberry's skin.

"Crunchiness was one of those things that people mentioned along with texture, and then the temperature and carbonation was brought up in multiple interviews, too," says Phillips. "It seemed like the patients we interviewed liked cold things. They liked carbonated beverages and then they liked the texture. And some of the texture was different. Some people really liked soft things, some liked crunchy things along those lines. It seemed as if texture was a really important component."

She says it's important to deal with the issue because it can affect a person's quality of life. Other COVID-19 research finds the combined loss of sense of smell and taste can lead to depression and anxiety.

"You have to find another way to enjoy eating so that your nutrition stays up and your quality of life isn't significantly impacted," she counsels patients.

There's no data that suggest these strategies will help one's sense of smell return or return faster.

The findings are published in a theInternational Forum of Allergies & Rhinology.


  • Recognize this is a quality of life issue that can be associated with depression
  • You have to eat so find a way to enjoy eating
  • Consider what you are able to enjoy and focus on that: texture, temperature, spice, visual appeal of what's on your plate

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Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.