Smell experts at the University of East Anglia have found that children are experiencing parosmia, a smell and taste disorder, after a COVID-19 infection. Alongside Fifth Sense, a charity for those affected by smell and taste disorders, they examined how some children develop distorted taste or smell when they recover from the virus.
The aroma of chocolate could smell like petrol, and lemon was picked up as rotting cabbage, they found.
UEA Norwich Medical School Professor Carl Philpott said that the condition is “putting children off their food, and many may be finding it difficult to eat at all”.
He explained how parosmia develops, adding it is “thought to be a product of having less smell receptors working which leads to only being able to pick up some of the components of a smell mixture”.
He continued: “We know that an estimated 250,000 adults in the UK have suffered parosmia as a result of a COVID-19 infection.
“But in the last few months, particularly since COVID started sweeping through classrooms last September, we’ve become more and more aware that it’s affecting children too.”
Professor Philpott described how parosmia is a condition never before prevalent in children or teenagers.
He said: “It’s something that until now hasn’t really been recognised by medical professionals, who just think the kids are being difficult eaters without realising the underlying problem.”
He continued: “For some children – and particularly those who already had issues with food, or with other conditions such as autism – it can be really difficult.”
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She said: “It has been absolutely heart-breaking to see him deteriorate; he stopped eating all together.”
She added that she had never heard of parosmia, and that when Malisse was in hospital, he had to be fed via a tube.
Malisse copes with the condition through foods that don’t trigger debilitating reactions, such as salmon.
His mum said he has battled feeling “extremely tired and cold all the time” and still contends with health issues.