Covid-19: rehabilitation for patients who have lost their sense of smell

Audio 02:36

Anosmia, or loss of smell, affects more than half of patients who have contracted the Covid-19 virus.

© Getty Images / George Pachantouris

By: Lucie Bouteloup

6 mins

If in most cases, Covid-19 patients who have lost their sense of smell regain all of their senses after a few weeks, for others, on the other hand, it can sometimes be more complicated.

Consultation and rehabilitation then become essential. 


Amélie is 40 years old.

Tall, slender and sporty, she contracted the Covid-19 virus at the same time as her companion 8 months ago.

Since then, she has found neither smell nor taste.

This is his first consultation with an otolaryngologist (ENT). 


I realized this when I removed the cat's crate where there was no smell.

I said to myself “this

is great!

”, But in fact no.

I still smelled essential oils, but today I no longer smell them

 , ”Amélie describes to the doctor.

► To read also: Covid-19: these wine professions which suffer from the loss of smell and taste

Two hypotheses put forward for the loss of smell

The total or partial loss of smell affects more than one in two patients with Covid-19. At the origin of this symptom two hypotheses. " 

It is either an edema of the olfactory slits, these two gutters which are located in the nose through which pass small nerves which start from the nose and go to the brain and carry the molecules of smell

 ", explains the doctor. Wissame El Bakkouri, ENT. “At

 that time, it is an inflammatory reaction linked to the virus and it recovers, in general we recover in 15 days, 3 weeks.


Then, the specialist doctor continues: “ 

Either the second hypothesis is a viral invasion of neurons.

Olfactory neurons are located in the olfactory cracks are physically attacked by the virus and even even in the olfactory bulbs in the brain.

So, one can imagine that the anosmia, the loss of smell, will last longer.


► To read also: Coronavirus: when the loss of taste and smell occurs

Beyond a year, the chances of recovery are extremely low, if not zero


After the fibroscopy to assess the condition of the nasal cavities, the doctor suggests that Amélie do an olfactory test.

Rose, apricot, caramel, but also goat cheese or manure, five different smells are distributed randomly in 48 glass vials which are submitted one by one to the patient who must identify them.

An exercise that is not always easy.

Amélie inhales the proposed odor which reminds her of “ 

something vague.

Apricot maybe?


An exercise to which Amélie will now have to undergo twice a day according to a very strict protocol.

The idea is to re-educate your brain that has somehow forgotten the smells and try to recreate connections.

A method that if taken on time increases the chances of recovery.

► Also to listen: Long-term sequelae of Covid-19

However, not everyone will regain their sense of smell.


We would like to tell all patients that there is hope.

But if you like, the truth is that unfortunately, beyond a year, the chances of recovery are extremely low, if not zero,

 ”warns Dr. El Bakkouri.

This admission is all the more chilling since olfactory rehabilitation is today the only recourse for people who suffer from anosmia and who wish to regain their sense of smell.

But Amélie is naturally optimistic and promises to follow the protocol to the letter.


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