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Be patient about loss of smell, taste after COVID

Be patient about loss of smell, taste after COVID


Dear Doc: I had COVID a few years ago. I can’t remember exactly when, it’s a blur, but I still don’t smell and taste exactly the same. Will I get better? By the way, I have been listening to you for years on KGOU; I love it. — F.R., from Oklahoma City

Dear F.R.: First off, thanks for being a loyal listener. I’ve been to Oklahoma City several times and love it there — especially the barbeque and having a good steak at the Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. So I can imagine if you can’t taste or smell those fine vittles how unhappy you’d be.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association might help sort this out. This was a study of 100 people, which took place in 2020 with people experiencing mild COVID symptoms.

None of them had evidence of lower respiratory symptoms, such as bronchitis or pneumonia. So we’re not talking about seriously ill folks, just mildly sick ones.

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The people who entered the study were generally healthy, ages 36 to 56, with about 60% of them women. The point here is that they were not older people who generally had more serious symptoms.

Smell and taste dysfunction — couldn’t smell or taste as well or the smells and tastes didn’t seem right — were reported in 65% of those surveyed during the acute phase of the disease. After that, 33% still had some problems at one year, 20% at two years and 16% at three years.

So over time, most people got better, but still one out of six continued having some COVID-related smell and taste problems three years out.

One caveat here: The younger you were, the more likely you were to recover completely.

Bottom line: Chances are you’ll get better, but it might take a while — longer than you’d hope. Many of us hoped that topical steroid nasal sprays, such as Flonase, would help improve function, but good research did not support using it.

HPV vaccine

The human papillomavirus is responsible for cervical and vaginal cancer, penile cancer, anal cancer and many cancers of the mouth and throat. HPV is estimated to cause 5% of all cancers worldwide.

The amazing thing is that we have an immunization for it. The best time to start it is in childhood, as young as age 9 but definitely by 11 or 12, and it’s recommended up to age 26, although some studies have shown benefits up to age 45.

Here’s what I find most interesting: Now that we have a cancer vaccine, who wouldn’t take it?

HPV is transmitted sexually, so many parents incorrectly think by giving the vaccine to their 9-year-old, they’re giving them a license to go out and have sex as soon as they’re able. That is hogwash.

Of course, there are the antivaxxers, but they’ve been around from time immemorial. And there are always the luddites who think putting something into your body is unnatural. If we paid attention to them, we’d still have smallpox and polio.

I think most of those who shun the vaccine do so because they don’t have the right information on which to base their decision.

My spin: If you need the HPV vaccine and haven’t received it, get it now. It just might save you from getting cancer one day. Stay well.

This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions. Any opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the views of SSM Health.




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