Parosmia: Unusual long COVID symptom makes everything smell like rotten meat

If you have this long COVID symptom, even the most fragrant flowers will start to smell vile.

Imagine how horrid life would be if all you could smell was rotten meat and chemicals every single day. Well, some people don’t have to imagine because that’s been their miserable reality since getting COVID.

Living with parosmia

31-year-old Sally McCreith, from Liverpool, tested positive for coronavirus around eight months ago. And like hundreds and thousands of other Brits, the infection left long-lasting side effects on her body. When she was first infected with the virus, she started exhibiting some of the usual symptoms—headache, fatigue, a congested cough, and she also lost her sense of smell. While most people eventually get their olfactory senses back, McCreigth’s also returned but it definitely wasn’t the same. She told BBC:

I had developed parosmia, which meant all smells were horribly distorted.
I can constantly smell a combination of rotten meat with an underlying chemical smell to it.
As a result my taste is affected. I used to be a real foodie, but now eating is so difficult, as everything has this vile smell to it.

McCreith hasn’t been able to eat properly since September, and she’s lost 12.7 kgs so far. This symptom doesn’t just affect her eating habits, it interferes with everything that she does. She continued:

Even toothpaste is awful, it's like brushing my mouth with ashes and when I get in the shower I feel like I'm washing with rotten meat.

All the way on the other side of the Atlantic, 25-year-old Brooke Viegut from New York has been going through the same thing since March 2020. In the beginning she could stomach smoothies made out of fresh fruits, but now that too is starting to taste like chemicals. It’s become so bad that even her partner has to stop eating triggering foods at least 24 hours before meeting her. Viegut said in a podcast with Fatigued:

If he does, his breath is nauseating to me. Even being with your person isn’t as comforting as it should be.

What is parosmia?

Parosmia is a condition in which your normal perception of odours starts getting distorted. As a result, something that would usually smell good to you will start giving off an unpleasant odour. Experts say that the condition is not permanent, but unfortunately it can last several months, or even years.

Although there are no cures or treatments for parosmia, patients can try smell training to recover their fifth sense.

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