UAB Medicine launched a new, specialized clinic for those who suffer from the loss of taste and smell. It's the new Comprehensive Smell and Taste Center, aimed at helping patients regain the sense of smell and taste through rehab, training, or even medication. "So when you lose your smell, it's like your nerve actually lost function. For example when you have a stroke, what you need to do is you need to train, muscle train, and do your rehab. Smell training is about encouraging their rehab process after their loss of smell," said Dr. Cho.
Dr. Do-Yeon Cho is the Director of the clinic. He said since COVID-19 there has been a surge in patients who have lost their sense of smell and taste. At least 500,000 people in Alabama have experienced continued smell and taste loss.
"I'd want something to eat, like watermelon, I'd eat it, and it had no taste," recalls Nancy Campbell. She battled COVID-19 in 2020. Katie Alford said her loss of smell is what made her realize she could have COVID-19. "I went to make some bacon, and I could not smell bacon, and when you can't smell bacon something is going on," said Alford.
"Until you've lost your smell, people don't really know the importance of smell. Smells' not only for the enjoyment of food, but also to warn you the dangerous like gas smells, fires, rotten taste of foods, it protects you," said Dr. Cho. "At the same time you hug your dog, the smell of your mother, your parents, it's emotional support. If you lost your smell, you are losing all those things."
The protectiveness of the sense of smell is one of the reasons behind the clinic. "My first threshold goal is that they can protect themselves, and smell any fires, gasses, and bad food. The next goal is enjoyment of food," said Dr. Cho.
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Training to regain the sense of smell will involve the essential oils, like lemon, rose, eucalyptus, cloves. "You start with four essential oils, you actually smell those oils at least twice a day. You very gently feel like you're in the zen position, close your eyes, and think about only the smell for 30 seconds....training your smell nerves system to understand the smells, you used to smell," said Dr. Cho. There is a similar training available for those who experience the loss of taste.
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Once patients can smell one scent, they move on to others, and if patients have trouble with one type of scent, patients can focus their training around scent's similar to it.
"I wasn't able to smell rose, or lemon. Which means I can include more florals and fruity smells into your training , in order to increase your smell faster," said Dr. Cho.
The clinic also has taste strips to test the level of taste as well. "A lot of times taste comes back whenever smells comeback," said Dr. Cho.
Dr. Cho would also wants to create a support group. "Everybody can get together to share their experience about smell lost, and because peer support is important for the patient...the patient compliant is being ignored by other physicians. When they talk about smell loss, they are emotional because they feel like they've been ignored."
Dr. Cho said if patients do their training twice a day, they should see improvement within three months. The clinic is treating patients who lost their sense of smell or taste because of other reasons like trauma, or neurological conditions like Parkinson's.