One of the things I really appreciate about Tiktok is the variety of content the algorithm shows me on the “For You” Page. I always get to learn about things like vintage makeup or new recipes, or even a new dance. Because of the algorithm, I was even fortunate enough to learn about parosmia and how important it is for women to know about it. You may be coming to this article with literally no idea what I’m talking about and that’s okay, I’m hoping that I can give you the basics and provide research that can tell you more.
Parosmia, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, is “a change in the normal perception of odors, such as when the smell of something familiar is distorted, or when something that normally smells pleasant now smells foul.” This may not sound as bad according to the definition but this Healthline article lists some of the specific smells or tastes that I recall the Tiktokers describing. They reported experiencing their food smelling and tasting like sewage, garbage and even just rotten.
Whenever I think of the long term effects of COVID-19, I usually think of loss of taste and smell rather than food smelling and tasting horrible. According to this article, “anosmia is a total loss of the smell, hyposmia is a decrease in the sense of smell.” It’s really worrisome that this isn’t more well known, both because of how isolating the experience is and how seriously it affects people’s health. Understandably, people with parosmia develop an aversion to food because of their experiences and have difficulty eating leading to things like weight loss and depression. This journal does a really good job of describing the impacts of having parosmia, I recommend reading it to get an in depth understanding.
Another kicker with parosmia is that no one really knows how long it lasts. This June study showed that about 50% of people with parosmia had it for up to three months, while the other approximate 50% had it for more than three months. Even so, one of the Tiktokers I watched reported having experienced parosmia for 11 months. According to the same study, it seems that the foods that were most impacted were meat, onion and egg, affecting 50% or more of the participants. One of the Tiktokers I watched even reported regular filtered water having a bad taste after developing parosmia.
Now, you might be wondering what factors put you especially at risk of getting parosmia. Looking at statistics from this June study, only about 140 of the 1299 participants experienced parosmia which is about 10%. 109 of those 140 participants (77.9%) were between the ages of 21 and 40. And the main reason I wrote this article, 103 of the 140 participants (73.6%) were female. This UK study goes in depth analyzing the ways that sex and age affect the resolution of these symptoms.
I don’t give you this information to scare you, that’s not the point of this article. I just really want to make sure that we don’t forget the effect that getting COVID-19 has on us and to make sure that people have some access to this information. I know that if I hadn’t stumbled upon those Tiktoks, I would have no idea that this was an issue and an issue that I’m more likely to be affected by.