Information alert

If you need a large print, audio, braille, easy-read, age-friendly or translated copy of this page, email the patient information team at We will do our best to meet your needs.

A COVID-19 infection will cause roughly half of people to lose their sense of smell. Loss of taste is generally linked to the loss of smell and true loss of taste is very rare. Most people will recover smell and taste after two to three weeks.For some people these symptoms may continue (as a single symptom or a part of Long COVID).

Persistent smell loss: What you need to know

  • Smell training is recommended to support recovery.
  • Distorted and unpleasant smells are a common feature of the recovery process.
  • This is known as ‘parosmia’. COVID-19 patients with persistent smell loss commonly report strong disgusting smells. The good news is that this is a sign of recovery, but it can be very difficult to live with and can affect your enjoyment of food.
  • Smell doesn’t come back all at once, and you may find progress stalls or even goes backwards for a while.
  • Smell loss can get you down. Not just because we don’t enjoy things as much if we can’t smell, but it has been demonstrated that people who lose their sense of smell are more vulnerable to depression
  • It won’t always be like this! Most people recover their sense of smell eventually, although they may find it’s different from before. It’s an injury that takes time to heal so be kind to yourself as you recover.

Smell training

Smell training is a supportive technique developed to help those recovering from post viral and head trauma-induced smell loss. Smell training involves twice daily sniffing of four essential oils to help the damaged olfactory nerve repair itself. Smell training has been shown to help people improve their sense of smell in over 14 peer-reviewed studies published since 2009.

Please visit the Abscent website which has helpful advice on smell retraining.

Page last updated: 30 May 2024

Review due: 31 October 2025