14-year-old girl told by doctors that her senses may never recover after catching COVID

·3-min read

A girl, 14, lost her sense of smell and taste for six months after catching COVID and doctors have warned her that her senses may never recover. 

Gwendalyn Kellan sniffs four essential oils each day in an attempt to retrain her nose but reports that they smell like burnt rubber. 

The high school student says that all food tastes like vomit and she fears she will never again enjoy a steak, her favorite meal. 

Gwendalyn, from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, suffers from parosmia, a distortion of smell, a post-COVID side effect and a symptom of Long COVID. 

Her father David Kellan, 51, fears that his daughter will have to adapt to life without her sense of smell and taste. 

He said: "The ear nose and throat doctor has told us that since it's been so long, it may never return. 

"You have five senses and when you are missing two of them, it makes things difficult in life."

Gwendalyn tested positive for the virus on January 30 and was off school for two weeks with stomach pain, head aches and vomiting. 

She said that at the time she was not overly worried as she was so young but she became concerned when she had not recovered her sense of smell and taste two months later. 

"I was a bit laid back because I knew it was more of a threat for older people. 

"I started worrying in April because my friend, who had the virus at the same time as me, got their sense of smell and taste back in two weeks. 

"I realized that this was a lot more serious." 

Gwendalyn's doctor told her to keep monitoring her sense of smell and taste and she is now working with a doctor to retrain her sense of smell. 

"Every day I smell four different essential oils for 20 seconds each. 

"I smell lavender, orange, eucalyptus and lemongrass. 

"The only one that smells a little accurate is the orange, the other three smell like burnt rubber.

"There's no food that tastes like it should - everything tastes like stomach acid, like vomit."

She also applies a triple antibiotic ointment into her nostrils and she has been offered a course of steroid medication. 

"I'm hoping they will find something that will fix it," she said. 

"I miss feeling like myself. 

"I miss steak and fruit a lot and smelling things like my perfume and laundry detergent."

Doctor Sam Huh, the site chair of otolaryngology head and neck surgery at Mount Sinai Brooklyn in New York has worked with patients who suffered from parosmia months after recovering from COVID. 

"I have a handful of patients who took eight months to recover their sense of smell and one that took a full year," he said. 

He suggests that patients smell and taste coffee, cinnamon, garlic and citrus three times a day to encourage the recovery of their sense of smell and taste. 

But he said that while not enough is known about how COVID affects smell and taste, in most cases these senses will return. 

"COVID seems to affect the support cells and the nerve becomes injured but not dead. 

"That's why in 95 per cent of COVID cases, people get better within eight to six months. 

"What distinguishes COVID from the flu is that the flu actually damages the nerve itself which makes the chance of regaining your sense of smell close to zero." 

He admitted that doctors are still at a loss to explain why when the virus enters the brain, patients often report a distortion of smell. 

"There are reports of COVID going into the brain itself which leads to brain fog. 

"The brain does heal but sometimes as it is healing, it crosswires so when you are smelling roses, the brain detects garbage. 

"There's still a lot of unknowns with COVID. 

"Once the infection is in the brain, it's a bit of a mystery as to what exactly happens." 

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