Woman Shares How She 'Prepares' to Eat Due to Long COVID Symptom

For many who survive a COVID-19 diagnosis, their ailments last longer than an isolation period. According to research from the Penn State College of Medicine released in October 2021, more than half of those diagnosed with the virus experience what is called long COVID.

One troubling symptom of long COVID is known as parosmia—a condition that distorts taste and smell.

TikToker @maryyy_ellen shared in a now viral video how she 'prepares' to eat before each meal to help manage her parosmia.

In the video posted this week, now viewed over 300,000 times, the woman is seen holding a red light up to her nostrils.

"I really do think red light therapy has helped," the woman captioned the video.

In a 2019 study published by the National Library of Medicine, researchers found that "exposure to low levels of red to near-infrared light stimulates neuronal function, leading to beneficial neurological effects," as well as the reversal of "olfactory dysfunction."

During the study, a patient "received twice-daily PBM therapy at home using three different wearable light-emitting diode (LED) devices."

A report from University of Utah Health said that parosmia can go beyond distorting a person's taste and smell but can make otherwise "normal" scents "smell unpleasant or even disgusting."

"Right now, so little is known about the long-term effects of COVID-19," Richard Orlandi, MD, an ear, nose and throat physician and professor in the Department of Surgery at University of Utah Health, said in the report. "This is just one of the many long-term symptoms doctors and researchers are studying. All we really know is that the majority of patients do experience a return of their normal senses of taste and smell, but it's unclear if and how many patients will get fully back to normal."

In March 2021, The New York Times reported that one of the recommended treatments for this condition is smell training. The treatment "involves sniffing several potent scents twice a day, sometimes for months, to stimulate and restore the olfactory system — or at the very least to help it function better."

Chrissi Kelly, founder of AbScent, a nonprofit based in the UK that offers support to people experiencing loss of smell as well as funding of related research, told the Times, "it's not a quick fix."

Kelly told Newsweek in an email that olfactory training, or smell training, is the only treatment with "scientific evidence."

Recovery time can vary from person to person, Kelly explained, but the vast majority of people will recover within a few months.

"Recovery time is very individual and will depend on the extent of the effect on the olfactory system," she said. "It's not possible to predict this at the beginning, which is what is so frustrating and scary about it."

Of the approximate 10 percent of people who have longer recovery times, some will only see partial recovery, she said.

In a video posted in November, @maryyy_ellen shared that eating "anything" after COVID tastes "rotten or like metal," she wrote in text over the video.

"I haven't had pizza or wings in over a month, send help," she captioned the video.

Commenters on the video posted this week shared their own experiences with the long COVID symptom, with some saying it lasted months.

"Ugh. I can't eat cream cheese, cottage cheese, shredded cheese, yogurt, many breads, or drink Coke anymore," one person wrote. "It all has a chemical taste and smell."

Covid mask
A woman's video went viral on TikTok after sharing her method for helping a long-COVID symptom that impacts smell and taste. Above, a stock image shows a woman holding her head while wearing a mask. Halfpoint/Getty Images

@maryyy_ellen responded, saying that those foods are her "safe foods," noting that "everyone's triggers are so different."

"[W]here was this [TikTok] a year ago ... mine went away after months of suffering," said another.

Another commenter shared that she was "on month 7" and asked the TikToker to share the product she uses.

In a follow-up video posted Wednesday, @maryyy_ellen shows a screenshot from Amazon of the LED device she uses.

"Mine comes today!!!" one person commented on the original video. "I am hopeful that it will work!!"

Newsweek contacted AbScent and @maryyy_ellen for comment.

Updated 02/25/2022, 2:50 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comments from Chrissi Kelly.