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If COVID has stolen or altered your sense of smell, your nose may need some help to recover its olfactory abilities.

For many people, the problem resolves itself in a few weeks. But for those who continue to find once-pleasant aromas distinctly foul — or who can’t detect any odors whatsoever — recent research suggests smell training may provide a solution.

The routine involves choosing four familiar scents — aromas that evoke strong memories — and sniffing each of them for abouta 20 seconds while looking at an image of the object that produces the smell. And don’t limit your choice of fragrances, says Pamela Dalton, PhD, of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, in the New York Times. “Some people have a lot of success with things that smell bad.”

Perform the ritual — using short sniffs rather than deep inhales — twice a day for three months or until your sense of smell returns. Some experts recommend using essential oils: You can try a variety, including lemon, clove, rose, and eucalyptus.

“It’s not simply the act of smelling something, but it’s also this sort of mindful imagining of what that smelled like when you were eating it or when you put it on your skin — if it was a lotion, for example,” explains Dalton. “It just makes it more enjoyable to continue with the process.”

Research on the practice remains scant, but a recent study of more than 1,300 COVID patients who reported pandemic-related olfactory disorders found that a smell-training regimen cleared up the condition for 95 percent of the participants within six months.

Before embarking on the routine, however, be sure to consult with an ear, nose, and throat specialist to determine whether the virus is actually causing the problem. Nasal polyps and other inflammatory issues can also affect your sense of smell, making other treatment approaches more appropriate.

This article originally appeared as “Physical Therapy for Your Nose” in the September 2021 issue of Experience Life.

Craig Cox
Craig Cox

Craig Cox is an Experience Life deputy editor who explores the joys and challenges of healthy aging.

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