It’s a symptom that has become synonymous with COVID-19: the loss of taste and smell. Studies show more than half of adult cases of COVID-19 involve a loss of these senses. And in some cases, adult patients haven't recovered these senses even after recovering from the virus.
But few studies have been done in child cases. Children’s Hospital Colorado is trying to change that.
“Smell is a sense that you don’t miss until you lose it, but smell is important for survival,” said Dr. Kenny Chan, chair of otolaryngology at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
The department is starting an olfactory training clinic in hopes of gathering data and helping children regain their sense of smell. They want to hear from children who’ve recovered from COVID-19, but aren’t smelling or tasting things as acutely as before the virus.
“What we are trying to do is alert the public and alert the parents and say this is underreported and if your child has had COVID-19, and if they’ve had issues with smell or taste, maybe it’s a good idea to get your child tested,” Dr. Chan said.
Child patients will first be given a standard test, called the UPSIT test, with 40 odors to determine a baseline. Those that seem to have a reduction in their sense smell will be asked to enroll in the clinic. From there, they’ll undergo twice daily “smell training” using four essential oils. The children will smell orange, eucalyptus, lavender, and peppermint.
“We’re using four oils that we’re hoping kids will be able to recognize the smell or associate with something in their world,” said DeeDee Gilbert, a nurse practitioner at Children’s Hospital.
Children’s Hospital will provide the essential oils to families, and will remind families to do the smell training twice a day. The children will be evaluated throughout a three-month period in hopes that over time their ability to smell will improve.
Doctors hope to gather data to contribute to our overall understanding of COVID-19.
“We would love to add another piece to this puzzle to help patients, and in this case, help children,” Dr. Chan said.