Up to 300,000 Swedes Estimated to Have Lost Sense of Smell Due to COVID-19
Between 50 and 70 percent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience an impaired sense of smell. While most regain their sense of smell after a few weeks, some get permanent aberrations that include a diminished or distorted sense of smell. In the most extreme cases, food smells “like a soup of cigarette butts and rotten meat”.
Approximately 300,000 Swedes in a nation of over 10 million are estimated to have an impaired sense of smell after COVID-19. Given the fact that the Nordic country only has two odour and taste clinics, this has led to long queues with hundreds upon hundreds of patients, the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported.
“We get patients from all over Sweden. I get private letters sent to my home and get contacted from all over”, Charlotte Cervin-Hoberg, a biomedical analyst in ear, nose, and throat, told the newspaper, citing heavy pressure.
While the sense of smell may be affected by infections, head trauma, neurological diseases, and age, COVID patients have been in the majority.
“There is a great demand, and after COVID it has completely hit the ceiling”, receptionist and nurse Li Nyman told the newspaper.
Between 50 and 70 percent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 have a reduced ability to smell. While most of them regain their sense of smell after a few weeks, some get permanent aberrations that include diminished or distorted sense of smell.
In the most extreme cases, this has greatly reduced the quality of life. For instance, Eva Höglund admittedly only eats vanilla ice cream. After COVID-19, everything else tastes and smells awful, in her own words “like a soup of cigarette butts and rotten meat”.
“I look at strawberries, but they smell so bad that I almost vomit”, she told the newspaper Aftonbladet.
As of now, there is no miracle cure or quick fix for those who have lost their sense of smell or had it greatly impaired. The best help currently on offer is so-called odour training, which is compared with physiotherapy. This method works both for those with an impaired and distorted sense of smell, so-called parosmia.
“You have to do it morning and evening and for a long time to have an effect. The improvement does not come overnight”, Li Nyman told Svenska Dagbladet. “We have such a memory for scents that after a while it starts to connect properly again”.
To date, Sweden has seen 1.17 million cases of COVID-19, with some 15,000 deaths.
Despite opting out of wide-ranging lockdowns throughout the pandemic, Sweden has a relatively low level of cases, hospitalisations, and deaths compared with other European countries. While the country has seen a slight increase in the number of new cases since the restrictions were lifted in late September, there are currently no plans to reintroduce them.