Q: I recently recovered from COVID-19, but still can't smell my favorite wines. Can olfactory training help?—Marcia, Breckenridge, Colo.
A: One of the many side effects of coronavirus infection is anosmia, or the partial or complete loss of sense of smell. While scientists and patients are working to understand COVID-19's impact on our senses, some experts are recommending olfactory training to help expedite recovery.
Dr. Eugene Chio, an otolaryngologist at The Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, estimates that 10 percent of his COVID-19 patients lose their sense of smell, and recovery times vary. But he offers patients the opportunity to undergo olfactory training.
"Some of the evidence right now suggests that [olfactory training is] hopeful in terms of helping regain a sense of smell over time," Dr. Chio told Wine Spectator. "We ask patients to smell different strong odors on a daily or twice daily basis, switching odors every now and again."
Dr. Chio says that training can be self-directed by patients. An example includes collecting lemons, cloves, roses and cinnamon, and breathing in those scents for a few minutes a day, while using your mind to remember what they smell like. After two weeks, Dr. Chio recommends switching it up with citronella or eucalyptus, trying to get nerve endings to wake up and regenerate.
Wine can also be used to whip senses into shape. Many contain the same aromatic compounds as fruits, herbs and other foods, and also offer a chance to sharpen one's olfactory senses through practice.
Dr. Chio says there is no solid evidence yet that steroids or other medications can assist with olfactory sense recovery, but clinical trials are ongoing. If you're suffering from anosmia related to COVID-19, consult your physician to determine the best road to recovery for you.—Shawn Zylberberg