Living with long Covid: ‘I just eat to keep alive and nourish my body'

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Thousands of people worldwide are suffering from the lingering effects of Covid-19 – from severe fatigue and loss of smell to coping with sudden unpleasant tastes. Health24 spoke to a number of long haulers. This is Lyn’s story.

Lyn, 52

Contracted Covid-19 in December 2020.

“Everything smells foul and tastes disgusting and putrid,” says Lyn, who had Covid-19 in December 2020.

Ever since Christmas Day in 2020, the 52-year-old has been battling with loss of smell (anosmia) and a distorted sense of taste, where once-pleasant tastes suddenly become revolting. The two conditions are associated with long Covid-19.

“If I drink a Coca Cola, it has a vile and bitter taste, like burnt candy or caramel, so I don’t drink that anymore. If I have fizzy drinks it’ll be 7 Up or Sprite Zero, which don't taste the way they should, but are less unpleasant," Lyn tells Health24.

She adds: “I don’t eat much because of my distorted sense of taste. I’ve cut out chips and sweets. I just eat to keep alive and nourish my body. I’ve adjusted to a new way of my life without my sense of taste and smell."

When cooking a meal, her husband or son has to taste-test the food because she can no longer judge if it is well-seasoned.

living with long covid
Image: Supplied

A mild Covid infection

Post-Covid parosmia is thought to affect roughly 10% of people who recover from acute infection, Health24 previously reported. Some medical doctors have reported an increasing number of Covid patients suffering from this neurological symptom.

One study suggests parosmia can last up to six months, but that the average duration is around three months. In another study, the majority of people with anosmia reported that they recovered their sense of smell after a month.

For Lyn, however, it’s been much longer than that.

Adjusting and adapting

“Nothing can be done about it. I have tried smelling familiar smells on a daily basis, but that did not help me,” she says, referring to "smell training".

The practice involves retraining your nose by regularly sniffing certain scents.

Lyn says:

Ï tried it all - the cinnamon, cloves, eucalyptus. But it didn’t work. Maybe I should try it again. I won’t give up.

Lyn used to light an incense stick every morning as part of her daily ritual and enjoyed the smell while it burned down. But since her Covid infection, she hasn’t been able to appreciate the fragrance.

“It’s all a struggle for me, but I have no choice but to adjust to and adapt,” she says.

Partaking in SA research

Last year, Lyn donated blood to a Stellenbosch University research project on long Covid led by professor Resia Pretorius. She is hoping the study will provide long haulers with some answers and hope.

For now, she’s trying to continue with her life and accept her new normal. 

Says Lyn:

I can’t enjoy the taste of food the way I used to. But it doesn’t hold me back. I’m a strong person. I carry on with life and I’m not letting it affect me in any way.

Her husband recently gifted her a bottle of Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door perfume, but plans to only remove it from the gift bag when her smell returns to normal. And she might be close.

“The other day I said, ‘The dog stinks!’ and my husband responded, ‘Oh, but then you’re getting your smell back!’  

“I hope so. There might be a slight improvement,” she says.

*Many people suffer from the long-term effects of Covid-19, even many months later. If you are one of those people, and wish to share your experience, let us know, and your story can be told in our Living with long Covid series. You are not alone. E-mail your stories to zakiyah.ebrahim@24.com

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here. You can also sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here

READ | Living with long Covid: People tell the stories of the debilitating symptoms left in the virus' wake

READ | Living with long Covid: Brain fog, hair loss, breathing issues – ‘You feel you’re going crazy’

READ | Living with long Covid: An expert tells us more about the research being done in South Africa

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