Food Tastes Like 'Sewage' for 11-Year-Old With Long COVID Who Can't Eat

An 11-year-old boy who is suffering from persistent olfactory issues following a COVID-19 infection has not been able to eat or drink properly for weeks because everything tastes like "poo and rotten eggs," according to his mother.

Malisse, from Liverpool in northwestern England, tested positive for the disease on September 20 and initially had no symptoms.

But then the boy suddenly lost his sense of taste and smell, local media outlet the Liverpool Echo reported. In addition, everything made the boy want to vomit.

"He started saying food was off and it continued. I cooked all his favorite foods but he said everything smelt," the boy's mother, Dawn Kafi, told the Echo. "He said food tasted like sewage and poo and water tasted like rotten eggs, and he would keep throwing up. It wasn't just food. It was supermarkets, the smell of cars going past it all made him retch. I didn't know what to do or what it was."

The mother said she stopped cooking so that there were no unpleasant smells in the air but despite trying everything to get him to eat, the boy was unable to.

"He'd been really good with COVID, he had no symptoms and he always wore his mask because his brother is severely disabled and he kept everyone safe, but all of a sudden he just stopped eating," she said.

"He would look at it and start gagging. He couldn't cope with the smells and physically couldn't eat. We couldn't go to the supermarket, it was horrendous."

The mother grew increasingly worried about her son, saying he was "tired and cold" all the time. So after the boy's isolation period ended, his mother contacted the ear, nose and throat department at a nearby children's hospital.

Medical staff at the hospital diagnosed him with a condition known as parosmia—a disorder in which the odors of certain things, or in some cases everything, are distorted.

Loss of taste and smell are common symptoms of COVID-19. For most people who experience these problems, their senses eventually return to normal after a period of time.

But some COVID patients who regain their smell begin to experience parosmia, finding that the sense has been distorted, according to a letter published in the BMJ.

For these people, things that usually smell nice may have a totally different odor that is repulsive. This can make food unpalatable, because taste and smell are closely linked.

Parosmia has been recognized as one of the symptoms of long COVID-19, or chronic COVID-19 syndrome.

This condition can have a severe effect on the patients who experience it, having an impact on psychological well-being, physical health, relationships and sense of self, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

After his diagnosis, Malisse was given a nasal spray to take and in the meantime, his mother started giving him smaller portions and tried putting pegs on his nose while eating. But the 11-year-old's condition continued to deteriorate.

The boy was hospitalized in late October but doctors told the family that nothing seemed to be immediately wrong after several blood tests were taken and he was discharged.

By the beginning of November, the mother said her son was so poorly that he could not stand properly and was slurring his words. He was eventually taken to an emergency department in early November and has remained at the hospital since.

She added: "He was initially admitted for dehydration not the fact he hadn't eaten a morsel of food for weeks. He was literally eating nothing and he still isn't eating now.

"He was initially put on IV fluids but that was taken out the next day and he's just been deteriorating every day. He's lost a significant amount of weight, a huge amount."

The mother said most doctors and nurses she had come across at the hospital did not know parosmia was.

"We had never heard of the condition before. Doctors didn't know what parosmia was either. I have only come across one doctor in [ER] and one nurse who knows what parosmia is. I kept asking on the ward why it's never spoken about."

The mother said she had spoken to Fifth Sense, a charity dedicated to smell and taste disorder, who had told her that they get calls every day from people saying they are suffering from parosmia and no-one understands it.

The boy was finally placed on a feeding tube after not eating properly for almost 50 days.

Boy using a nasal spray
Stock image showing a boy using a nasal spray. COVID-19 can cause result in taste and smell disorders. iStock