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Doctors Concerned That Coronavirus-Related Loss of Taste Could Be Permanent for Some

Even months after recovering from COVID-19, a small number of people still find that everything tastes “like cardboard”

Two shelves of round bread
Imagine never smelling this again!
Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food and Travel Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

One of the telltale symptoms of COVID-19 is anosmia, or the loss of smell and taste. Nearly a year into the pandemic, a small number of people otherwise recovered from the novel coronavirus have yet to regain these senses, leading doctors and researchers to study the many ways that anosmia can change a person’s life, typically for the worse.

“You think of it as an aesthetic bonus sense,” said Dr. Sandeep Robert Datta of Harvard Medical School, in a recent report in the New York Times.“But when someone is denied their sense of smell, it changes the way they perceive the environment and their place in the environment. People’s sense of well-being declines. It can be really jarring and disconcerting.”

The Times says prolonged anosmia can lead to “social isolation and anhedonia, an inability to feel pleasure, as well as a strange sense of detachment and isolation,” in addition to a loss of appetite. Dr. Datta says that while prolonged loss of smell and taste is rare in those who contracted COVID-19, enough people have had it (over 20 million in the U.S.) so “we’re talking about potentially millions of people.”

All in all, it’s just one more potential horrendous side effect of the pandemic, which is spreading across the country at worse rates than ever due to a lack of government action and financial relief that would allow everyone to stay safely at home.