Ruby Martinez was eating a banana when she noticed the nothingness. She chewed but tasted no sweetness. She sniffed but got none of the fruit’s redolent musk. “I started freaking out,” she says. She smelled a bottle of perfume. Nothing. She ate a pickle. Still nothing... https://www.theatlantic.com/, You Recovered From COVID-19. Now Your Coffee Smells Like Sewage. Sarah Zhang, 2021
That was in June. Since then, her senses of smell and taste have started to come back—but intermittently and in strange ways. There were the two weeks in the summer when all she could smell was phantom smoke. The odor was so strong that she woke up one morning startled, convinced that something in her house was on fire. Sometime later, she was able to smell her boyfriend’s cologne again—but instead of the familiar scent she had always loved, it was a sickening chemical odor.
Nasal congestion and inflammation—as with common colds—often cause some loss of smell, but what happened to Martinez, and to many COVID-19 patients, is markedly different. Their noses are no longer congested nor inflamed, but they still can’t smell a thing. The exact cause is unknown.