Until March, when everything started tasting like cardboard, Katherine Hansen had such a keen sense of smell that she could recreate almost any restaurant dish at home without a recipe, just by recalling the scents and flavors.
Then COVID-19 arrived. One of Hansen’s first symptoms was a loss of smell, and then of taste. She still cannot taste food, and says she can’t even tolerate chewing it. Now she lives on soups and shakes.
Hansen shared, “I’m like someone who loses their eyesight as an adult. They know what something should look like. I know what it should taste like, but I can’t get there.”
A diminished sense of smell, called anosmia, emerged as one of the telltale symptoms of COVID-19. It is the first symptom for some patients, and sometimes the only one.
Most regain their senses of smell and taste after they recover, usually within weeks. But in a minority of patients like Hansen, the loss persists, and doctors cannot say when or if the senses will return.