Thousands of people who had Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic are still finding that certain foods, toiletries and even their loved ones smell repulsive. All the food and socialising that Christmas brings can make this time of year particularly isolating and tough for those with the condition, known as parosmia.
This will be Milly’s second year wearing a nose peg in order to stomach a Christmas dinner around the table with her family.
“Cheese, meat, onions and chocolate all taste and smell like death, like something rotten and horrible,” says the 16-year-old, from Bolton.
She developed parosmia in February 2021, three months after catching coronavirus and losing her sense of smell.
Parosmia is essentially a distorted sense of smell. It is thought to be caused by specialised nerve cells in the nose failing to detect and translate odours in a way the brain can properly make sense of.
For Milly, it has impacted not only her diet but her social life and mental health too.
“I don’t go out with my friends as much because I don’t eat for fun any more, I eat because I have to,” she says.
Milly’s twin sister caught coronavirus around the same time but didn’t get any symptoms, and Milly doesn’t know anyone else with parosmia.
She is persistently asked by some people when her sense of smell will go back to normal, which she finds insensitive and upsetting because she doesn’t believe it ever will.
She might feel it, but Milly is far from alone.