Olfactory flasks, Source: Comunidad de Madrid

A hospital in Madrid is testing a therapy that recovers the sense of smell

A hospital in Madrid is testing a therapy that recovers the sense of smell

There is hope for Covid-19 sufferers

This past weekend it was reported that Hospital Clínico San Carlos, a university hospital in Madrid, now has a research program that seeks to find a therapy treating damage to the olfactory system caused by the coronavirus infection. This is carried out by the specialized Olfactory Department at the hospital and consists of two distinct stages – the therapy component and the evaluation of patients’ progress.

Olfactory disorders are usually under-diagnosed in modern medicine

By now, it has been well established that one of the first and most common symptoms of a Covid-19 infection is the loss of taste. This inability to taste or change in the perception of the qualities of food and drink, however, is caused by the accompanying loss of the sense of smell.

The senses of taste and smell are, therefore, intrinsically linked and their loss, which can appear highly discomforting, can also linger even after the patient has been formally cured of the viral infection.

That is why the Olfactory Department at the Hospital Clínico San Carlos has devised a systematic experimental therapy which seeks to restore the brain capacity to distinguish different smells and create memories about them. Twice a day for 10 minutes patients smell tiny flasks containing different aromatic oils. Depending on results the therapy can last for months.

COVID sufferers also keep daily logs recording the results of the smell tests. On one hand, this helps them comply with the treatment, on the other, it provides objective data for analysis on how well the therapy is working.

“With this training, it is possible to accelerate the recovery of smell to a great extent, to such an extent that patients can improve in several months, something that without treatment could take many years to recover," explained Dr Pablo Sarrió, Head of the Olfactory Department which was founded at the hospital in 2017.

After the therapy is finished, patients hand over their logs to the researchers who then analyze the results as part of the second stage of the programme.



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