Food Tastes Like Garbage for 20-Year-Old Who Caught COVID 10 Months Ago: 'Literal Torture'

A young woman has pleaded with people to take COVID-19 seriously after she developed a long-term symptom that causes food and drink to taste and smell revolting.

In a TikTok video describing her symptoms, 20-year-old Natalia Cano says she caught COVID 10 months ago.

Since then, she has lived with a condition called parosmia. It's a term referring to distortion of one's senses of taste and smell that often causes things to taste and smell unpleasant or disgusting.

According to the University of Utah, parosmia can make normal food and drink, such as coffee or fruit, smell and taste like rotten meat or garbage. In her video, which has been watched 2.2 million times on TikTok and attracted several thousand comments, Cano provides a moving description of living with such symptoms, which she finds hard to describe.

"This is the way that I describe it," she says, referring to foods tasting and smelling like rotting flesh or garbage. "However it does not taste like rotting flesh and garbage and sewage, it is a completely different taste and I have no idea how to describe it because it's nothing that I've ever experienced before that is equally as bad.

"It is a neurological side effect and it is completely detrimental to my physical and my mental health. I am not okay. And I haven't been for 10 months, because it's literal torture."

Cano said she has lost "upwards of 40 pounds" due to her condition because the taste of food and drink has become so unpleasant—even water.

As a replacement for meals Cano has been drinking protein shakes and eating protein bars, but the lack of nutrition has had other effects such as hair loss.

"I am begging every single person that is watching this to wear their mask, and to get vaccinated if they aren't already," she said.

Cano said she had been to visit a doctor in Washington, D.C. recently and is due to undergo an experimental therapy to see if her senses of smell and taste can be improved.

The effect of COVID on taste and smell has been documented since near the start of the pandemic when it emerged that a common symptom was a temporary loss of both.

Nearly two years later, many people have reported that this change to taste and smell has lasted long after the initial infection—part of a phenomenon known as "long COVID."

In September this year, researchers from universities across the U.K. published a study in the journal PLoS One based on analysis of anecdotal reports on a social media support group about altered sense of smell and taste.

"Participants reported difficulty explaining and managing an altered sense of taste and smell; a lack of interpersonal and professional explanation or support; altered eating; appetite loss, weight change; loss of pleasure in food, eating and social engagement; altered intimacy and an altered relationship to self and others," the study stated.

According to the University of Utah, very little is understood about why COVID causes conditions like parosmia and how long it lasts.

Smelling fruit
A stock photo shows someone smelling a piece of fruit. Parosmia can make normal food and drink taste and smell revolting. Dima Berlin/Getty