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Taste and smell
Taste and smell


A family cooking in the kitchen

Losing your sense of smell

You might lose your sense of smell when you have COVID. We do not have a lot of information about how long it takes for COVID patients to get their sense of smell back. Research from other viruses that affect your sense of smell shows us that smell usually returns within two weeks but can sometimes take longer. Some people who lose their sense of smell can also lose their sense of taste. The flavour of food comes from smell and taste. There are five basic tastes:
  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Salt
  • Bitter
  • Savoury
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What does this mean for me?

Your favourite foods could taste and smell different while you are getting better from COVID. The loss of taste and smell usually only lasts for a short time, but you might not eat as much because you do not feel hungry or you don’t enjoy food as much. Return to Top

How can I make food taste better?

Try to choose foods that you enjoy eating to make sure you eat well, but keep trying out different foods as the food you like may change as your taste comes back. Keep your mouth clean and healthy by:
  • Brushing your teeth every morning and evening
  • Rinsing your mouth with water if it feels dry or uncomfortable
  • Avoiding mouthwashes that contain alcohol
If you find cooking smells affect how hungry you feel, you could try out microwavable meals that need heating up or cold food such as sandwiches or salad. Find out what you enjoy eating by trying out food with different:
  • Flavours
  • Textures
  • Temperatures
If you have problems with swallowing, make sure you get advice from a Speech and Language Therapist before trying any new food. You may find it easier to:
  • Eat plain flavours such as: chicken, fish, tofu and rice
  • Eat cold food or food at room temperature
  • Eat food with different textures
It is important to eat food with lots of protein, such as eggs, nuts and chicken, but they can taste bitter or metallic after COVID. If foods have a metallic taste, try plastic or wooden cutlery instead of metal cutlery and use glass cookware. Try using sauces and spices to change the flavour of different types of food to find the one you enjoy the most:
  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Egg
  • Cheese
  • Meat for vegetarians and vegans
  • Beans and pulses
Try adding strong flavours to food to make them taste better, such as herbs, sauces and spices. Some flavours with a sharp taste, such as orange, lemon and lime, can make food taste less sweet. Sucking boiled sweets and mints may refresh the taste in your mouth before and after eating. If food tastes too salty or bitter try out low-salt options or adding sweetener, honey or sugar. If you are noticing a difference in your weight and you are finding it hard to maintain your weight, please follow the eating well advice.

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