- A woman from Ohio lost her senses of taste and smell after catching COVID in January 2021.
- 9 months after contracting COVID food still tasted distorted, for example bananas tasted metallic.
- She received treatment in December 2022 and finally started to regain her ability to taste and smell.
A woman who couldn’t smell or taste properly for two years after a mild case of COVID regained her senses after she was treated with a pain injection.
Jennifer Henderson, 54, from Cincinnati, Ohio contracted COVID in January 2021 and experienced headaches, fatigue, and a loss of taste and smell, she told Cleveland Clinic.
While most of her symptoms subsided after a week, her inability to taste or smell remained. After nine months, they came back, but distorted so that things didn’t taste or smell as they should.
Bananas tasted metallic, garlic tasted like gasoline, chicken tasted like rotten flesh, known as dysgeusia, and she couldn’t smell her perfumes, flowers, or her husband’s aftershave, known as parosmia.
“It was terrible. Most people don’t understand how that affects you, with two of your major senses gone,” she said.
After almost two years with an altered sense of taste and smell, Henderson received her first dose of treatment in December 2022. A video shows her crying after the treatment enabled her to smell and taste coffee for the first time since falling ill.
Henderson learned of the treatment in a support group
Prior to getting COVID, Henderson enjoyed going out for food and cooking new recipes at home. But she dreaded eating after she lost her taste and smell, and said that most food tasted like garbage.
“Friends would ask where we wanted to go out for dinner and I’d just shrug my shoulders,” she said.
She would look at old pictures of herself and think “I used to be normal then” and wonder if she’d have to deal with this for the rest of her life.
She tried holistic remedies such as acupuncture but nothing helped.
After coming across a Facebook support group for people suffering from the same symptoms, Henderson learned of a treatment used for pain management called a stellate ganglion block, which had been used to improve smell and taste for long COVID sufferers.
SGB is a series of injections of local anesthetic into the nervous system that is believed to stop it from contributing to long COVID symptoms, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Christina Shin, a pain medicine specialist who treated Henderson, said: “There is a connection between our nervous system and immune system. Some propose patients with long COVID are suffering from persistent overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system or inflammation of their nervous system.”
Referring to a collection of nerves at the front of the neck, she said: “By injecting local anesthetic and temporarily blocking neuronal activity at the stellate ganglion, we may be disrupting this abnormal feedback loop.”
This treatment doesn’t work for everyone, Shin told NBC News, and some get their senses back over time. But for some, like Henderson, the results are immediate.
Henderson has had two more injections since and found that she’s seen improvements in both taste and smell each time, including being able to smell her favorite perfumes once again.
In a video documenting her first round of the treatment, Henderson said: “You feel like you’re in this box. For two years two senses are completely gone. And now I feel like I’m getting my life back.”