A nurse says fake smells and little taste are two symptoms of long COVID she’s experienced since being diagnosed with coronavirus in April 2020.
Lorna Graham, 27, says she previously had sepsis and swine flu but coronavirus is “the worst thing” she has experienced.
After being signed off work for six months, the Glasgow-based nurse is now back at work but says she is still suffering symptoms of long COVID, including sensing a constant smell of cigarette smoke nearby, even when no one near her is smoking.
“The acute phase of my illness lasted a few weeks and I can truly say I felt like I was dying. Without question it was the worst I have felt in my life,” said Graham.
"It’s not that I haven’t been ill before - I have had sepsis and swine flu but this was different. It felt like I was drowning, at times I couldn’t get a breath. I had a temperature, no taste or smell and just slept and slept.
“I waited to recover fully and it just never came. It was October before I felt able to go back to work.”
Watch: What is long COVID?
She has since been diagnosed with long COVID. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 20% of people still have coronavirus symptoms five weeks after initial infection, while half of these continue to experience symptoms for more than 12 weeks.
Graham added: “My symptoms have changed throughout. Sometimes it’s shortness of breath, sometimes it’s actual chest pain. When it’s bad it feels like someone is digging their knuckles into my back.
“My sense of smell has not come back, so it’s been a long time since I tasted a meal properly. I can tell if something is sweet or savoury, or salty or spicy, but not what the actual taste is.
"I really only get textures - something like soup holds no appeal as it has no taste. I also get ‘fake’ smells. I can smell smoke sometimes, when nobody near me is smoking. I also get a mouldy smell which isn’t pleasant.”
Graham added that there is “no pattern” to her flare-ups. Sometimes she is unwell for six days, other times it can be three days.
"I’m not unwell enough to be off work, but I am tired and fed up feeling like this,” Graham continued.
"As a nurse I know that and know there are so many people in greater need than me right now. On the other hand I am 27 and need to know if this is normal and is there anything else I can be doing to help myself.”
A recent study from the University of Leicester and ONS found that of 47,780 patients admitted to hospital with coronavirus in England between 1 January and 31 August, 2020, 29% were readmitted within 140 days of discharge.
According to the NHS, symptoms of long COVID can include fatigue, chest pain, difficulty sleeping and brain fog.
Additional reporting SWNS.