“What I miss the most is the smell of my sons when I kiss them, the smell of my wife’s body, the scent of my dad. Anosmia cuts you off from the scents of life, it’s torture ”, confides to theAFP Jean-Michel Maillard, president of the Anosmie.org association.
Gone are also the daily pleasures such as the scent of coffee in the morning, the freshly cut lawn or even “the so reassuring smell of soap on your skin when getting ready for a meeting” … “We discover the smell when you lose it ”, regrets this 40-year-old, who has become anosmic following an accident. Not to mention the problem of not being able to detect gas, smoke or an improperly washed trash can.
Meals are also disrupted because 90% of what we eat is related to smell. “To differentiate a Bordeaux from a Burgundy, to differentiate a beef stew from a Marengo veal, it is about the smell”, notes Alain Corré, ENT at the Rothschild Hospital-Foundation in Paris.
“There are dozens of causes of anosmia”, explains the specialist, citing nasal polyposes, chronic rhinitis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s … and now COVID-19.
In this case, it is even a pathognomonic symptom, that is, a clinical sign which, on its own, allows the diagnosis to be established.
“When people lose their sense of smell and there is no recovery, there is a real deterioration in the quality of life and a rate of depression that is not at all negligible”, adds Alain Corré.
The problem is when this handicap sets in: “being deprived of smell for a month is okay. Two months is starting to get awkward. But after 6 months, you are all alone, under a glass bell, ”says Jean-Michel Maillard. “There is a very difficult psychological dimension to dealing with, you have to get help”.
There is no specific treatment for odor disorder. The cause must be treated, but “the problem with anosmias linked to the virus is that often the treatment of the viral infection has no effect on the sense of smell”, specifies the Dr I ran.
“According to the first figures, about 80% of patients with COVID-19 recover spontaneously, in less than a month and often even quickly in 8-10 days,” notes the doctor.
For others, it seems that the olfactory neurons, which act as an odor detector, have been destroyed by the coronavirus. But the enormous advantage that nature has given us is that these neurons, placed at the back of our nose, have a capacity for regeneration.
The Parisian Rothschild and Lariboisière hospitals have set up a CovidORL study and are testing the effectiveness of nose washes with cortisone (budesonide), associated with olfactory rehabilitation. A treatment that has proven its effectiveness on post-cold anosmias, “a hope”, for Alain Corré.
The olfactory rehabilitation allows to continue to stimulate the cognitive functions, the associative ways which associate the memory and the smell, develops the ENT.
Her advice: choose five smells in your kitchen – that you like – such as cinnamon, thyme, bay leaf … Breathe them twice a day, for 5 to 10 minutes, watching what you are doing. breathe.
With Hirac Gurden, director of neuroscience research at the CNRS, the Anosmie.org association has also made available on its site a rehabilitation protocol based on diluted essential oils, based on the work of researcher Thomas Hummel (Dresden).
“As early as March, we received several hundred phone calls, emails from people who had COVID and who called for help because they no longer felt anything,” recalls Hirac Gurden.
Last winter, Jean-Michel Maillard finished rehabilitation with four smells. “Today, I have ten: fish, cigarettes, rose essential oil … and I even found a perfume that I can smell!”, He rejoices.