Update from a COVID-19 sufferer

Ali in bed with mustard

Ali got better, and then got worse. And muses on the anosmia that seems to affect so many sufferers.

I last wrote an update on day nine of my suspected COVID-19 infection. I had recently totally lost my sense of smell and taste, yet it was slowly returning. It is now 1 April (I can’t think of any prank that can come close to what we are living through now) aka day 18, so I thought an update might be appreciated.

I received many kind messages, as well as some from others who were in the same boat as I was. They had recently totally lost their sense of smell and taste and were understandably concerned. As I reported, I personally knew of 18 people who had also suffered from anosmia in varying degrees. At the time, when I was first struck down with it, I had read absolutely nothing in the press about it being a potential symptom. Some googling unearthed a few articles referencing it, but it was certainly not widely reported. Fast forward 9–10 days and it is now ‘officially’, in the UK at least, recognised as a symptom of infection.

I also mentioned last week that this is a virus that requires much caution, and I stand by that statement 100%. On day eight I thought I was improving so did some light (very light) exercise. It set my lungs going and I suffered shortness of breath and felt very faint. Not the best idea. My last comments on day nine were, ‘I am officially on the mend – I think.’

So, officially on the mend, I decided to go for a very short walk that afternoon (it had been nine days since symptoms started so I was allowed out according to government guidelines). One and a half miles later, I returned home from my amble by the river and I was absolutely exhausted and wheezing quite deeply. My lungs hurt and I felt dizzy. Two hours later my temperature was back up at 39.6 °C (103.3 °F) and I went straight to bed. Night sweats came back with a vengeance. At this point I lost my appetite again, but could smell and taste at probably 50% capacity.

The next three to four days were very similar. I would wake up feeling better, but always with nausea, the only thing that I really wanted to eat was mashed bananas and honey. I don’t normally particularly like bananas – but my body wanted them. By early afternoon my temperature was back up and I felt dizzy and extremely fatigued. Each day though I would continue to inhale strong-smelling substances – mustard, perfumes, deodorants, Marmite, etc. My sense of smell seemed to be returning slightly faster than that of my friends who had also been infected.

Ali in bed with mustard

By day 16, I felt a lot brighter, had a vague appetite and my temperature was back to normal. I decided to try a glass of wine – a relatively inexpensive South African Pinot Noir. Well – it was pretty uninspiring to say the least. It tasted flat, metallic and the acidity really stood out. I didn’t enjoy it at all. So, while my smell and taste are certainly on the mend, they're still not right. However, it is certainly far better than it was only nine days ago. I would say I am now at 80% smell, and 70% taste. The good news is that my Campari and tonic last night tasted much better than the wine.

For those out there who are worried about loss of sense of smell and taste, patience is required. It is frustrating, as this whole experience is – yet I am confident that full recovery is almost guaranteed. It may take a week or even a month or more – but given the bigger picture, it is really just a minor irritant.

I urge anybody with a suspected infection of COVID-19, to please take it very easy. Do not over-exert yourself. More than half of the people that I know that have been affected have suffered a relapse of sorts, so rest up, grab a book and stay indoors. Better times are coming.