The loss of taste and smell has been one of the hallmark freaky symptoms of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Yet as we’ve started to uncover more about the virus, like its effects on heart health and ability to produce long-term brain fog, loss of taste and smell continues to grow more confounding. As many people on Reddit and TikTok are reporting, though they may have eventually recovered their senses after being diagnosed, they still just aren’t what they used to be. Namely, people find that they themselves don’t smell like they used to.
“I had [COVID] back in March, wasn’t too bad, lost my sense of smell for a month but the one thing that has lasted is my armpits smell different — like I smell different,” @natalieisis says in a TikTok.
In a post in r/COVID19Positive, redditor Lymer555 wrote that their “body odor, excrement smells very different,” and that they often can’t smell their own farts or don’t recognize the scent of their farts as their own.
Plenty of people in the comments agreed. “There’s this metallic almost unpleasant sweet smell that I smell from my own farts, poop, body odor, cat food and my cat’s breath. It’s so weird, but I swear I can also taste it in my mouth,” Warmpretzelnugget responded.
Exactly what’s causing this remains unclear, though it’s not entirely unheard of for this phenomenon to occur among those recovering from viruses or head injuries. Some of the people who’ve experienced it speculate that COVID impacted the bacteria in their digestive system, causing their poop and farts to actually smell differently. Many had diarrhea and other stomach issues as side effects of COVID.
Others think the issue is with their sense of smell itself. In addition to finding their own body odors to be grosser or foreign, some also find that familiar foods taste rotten. “Imagine all food smelling and tasting like the contents of an ashtray combined with rotting meat,” AngelLynne_ wrote, saying that the issue is so bad that they struggle to eat at all.
According to a study published on November 30th from the University of East Anglia, smell distortion, or “parosmia,” has impacted as many as 90,000 people diagnosed with COVID. The study found that the practice of “smell training,” which basically involves smelling familiar scents like lemon and focusing on the original qualities of the smell, is effective over time in reducing parosmia. In AngelLynne_’s post, she cites smell training as one of the measures she’s used to improve her ability to eat.
Generally, it’s thought that smell-related COVID symptoms are the result of damage to olfactory support cells, and can be healed over time. Nevertheless, it’s another strange, uncomfortable long-term symptom to add to the list of reasons to avoid COVID.