Noticing nerve damage and COVID-19 nightmares during a ‘challenging’ 2020

Nirmal Kumar, the British ENT surgeon who helped to identify loss of smell as a COVID-19 symptom has looked back on 2020 as “a challenging one.”

It’s a relatively restrained description for a year full of nightmares – literally as well as figuratively.

ENT stands for ear, nose and throat – the core of almost all COVID-19 infections – and specialists in this field have been at the front line of “the danger zone.”

In March, Kumar and fellow specialists in the UK were among the first to identify anosmia – the loss of smell – as a COVID-19 symptom. By mid-April the World Health Organization had officially included this as a warning sign.

Since then, Kumar and his colleagues have called the virus neurotropic, meaning it affects the nervous system. It attacks several nerves, including those in the nose that dictate the sense of smell. This can disrupt the transmission of messages to the brain, opening a Pandora’s Box of psychiatric problems like trouble sleeping and nightmares.

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