Long COVID: Loss of smell or taste

After having coronavirus (COVID-19), you may still have a loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste. It can take time for your sense of smell or taste to recover. You may find that foods smell or taste differently after having coronavirus. Food may taste bland, salty, sweet or metallic. These changes don't usually last long, but they can affect your appetite and how much you eat. For a very small number of people, your change of sense of smell or taste may be more long-term.

What you can do to help

It's important not to compare yourself to others. Everyone's recovery is different.

You may only be able to smell or taste a little, or you may find certain smells or tastes unpleasant. You may experience a bad smell all the time – for example smelling smoke or petrol.

Do

  • learn about your condition from trustworthy sources
  • eat cool or room temperature foods
  • take small mouthfuls – don't give up too quickly as you may get used to the taste
  • try bland foods like rice, boiled potatoes and pasta
  • try flavours that appeal to you
  • keep trying things – what you like can change from week to week
  • keep your mouth clean and healthy by brushing your teeth morning and evening
  • rinse your mouth with water if it feels dry or uncomfortable
  • make sure you eat enough protein like beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins
  • try adding strong flavours or spices to help with taste – though don't add too much sugar or salt

Read about the recommended daily intake of sugar and salt

Smell training

Smell training means regularly smelling different things to relearn them. It can help some people get their sense of smell back. If you can smell the difference between 2 different things, smell training may help you. This includes if you can only smell a faint difference. The earlier you start smell training, the more it may be able to help.

Start with items you have at home like coffee, perfumes, citrus, or different types of essential oils. Learn to identify these with practice and then move on to a new scent.

Losing smell may have practical safety concerns – for example gas, smoke, out of date food and poor ventilation. If you don't have a sense of smell, it's important to be aware of these. You might want to:

  • visually check your cooker is off
  • make sure you have a working smoke alarm
  • check expiry dates on food

Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP practice if:

  • your symptoms are not improving
  • your symptoms are affecting your day to day life
  • you're worried about your symptoms
  • you also have other nasal symptoms like blocked nose
  • you're worried about possible long COVID symptoms in a child or young person under 18

Last updated:
09 March 2022

Other languages and formats

British Sign Language (BSL)  |  العربية  |  বাাংলা  |  简体中文  |  繁體中文  |  دری  |  فارسی  |  हिन्दी  |  پښتو  |  Polski  |  ਪੰਜਾਬੀ  |  Română  |  slovenčina  |  Español  |  اردو  |  Audio  |  Easy Read