Man With Parosmia Says Food Tastes Like 'Rotten Flesh' Over a Year After COVID Diagnosis

A man who tested positive for COVID-19 in December 2020 has found that over a year later, food and drink still do not taste the same.

In some COVID-19 patients, one of the first signs of the virus is a temporary loss of taste or smell. But for those suffering from parosmia, who are referred to as parosmics, their senses don't return quite the same as before.

Parosmia, defined by Healthline, is a condition that distorts one's sense of taste and smell. For Indiana resident Ty Hunter, it has made everything he eats taste like "rotten flesh" and chemicals, he told local news station WFIE.

"As gross as that sounds, it's about as close as I can get to it," Hunter said. "It's not a smell that you've smelled before."

Hunter described the moment his senses came back to him after getting COVID in December. In March, he thought Taco Bell had served him expired meat. He noticed the same revolting taste in his coffee the next morning and has since found that 90 percent of all foods have that taste.

England Under Second Coronavirus Lockdown
A man facing post-COVID parosmia says everything he eats and drinks tastes like rotten flesh and chemicals. Above, a man wearing a protective face mask walks past an illustration of a virus outside Oldham Regional Science Centre on November 24, 2020, in Oldham, United Kingdom. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

What has helped Hunter cope is joining a Facebook support group for people suffering from parosmia after contracting the coronavirus. He's not alone; some such groups on the social media platform have up to 45,000 members.

"I know that I'm not speaking alone with people with parosmia. If I could go back and lose my sense of smell and taste, I would do it in a heartbeat," Hunter told WFIE.

While some parosmics gain their original senses of taste and smell back after just a few weeks, some, like Hunter, are still struggling.

"Hopefully, it's something that, hopefully, one day I'll wake up and, you know, everything will be normal, but we just don't know," Hunter said.

AbScent, a smell loss charity, has been a huge resource for people with post-COVID parosmia. The charity's founder, Chrissy Kelly, told Newsweek that it is common for parosmics to be in recovery for up to two years.

"The olfactory nerve regenerates, and it regenerates well, but it takes a long, long time, and some people take a lot longer," Kelly said.

AbScent states on their website that the food and drink restrictions limited by these olfactory distortions can put a significant dent in a person's health, both mental and physical.

Parosmia is a very difficult ailment for anyone who has not experienced it firsthand to understand. "The initial phases of parosmia cause the greatest anxiety and distress," Kelly said. "There's an initial acute phase, and then people start to find their way with this."

The organization encourages those struggling with parosmia, reminding them on its website that "[t]his is a natural healing process so there is no cure, but smell training can help recovery."

"Eating well can be difficult, especially if parosmia makes some food repulsive," the website states. "Smell loss can get you down. You may be more vulnerable to depression with a reduced sense of smell."

Kelly iterated that it is incredibly important for parosmics to continue to be hopeful and educate the people closest to them. "People need support and understanding from their family group," she said.

Newsweek also reached out to Ty Hunter for comment.