Thousands who have recovered from COVID-19 have said the loss of taste and smell is a side effect that lingers.  But is it permanent?

The founder of a nonprofit advocacy group called AbScent estimated around half of COVID-19 patients have changes to their sense of taste and smell, and most will recover within two to three weeks, around the same time other symptoms subside too.  But.  There's always a but.  Thousands are still working towards recovery even months after testing negative for the virus.

Some of those patients said they gave up on trying to taste food so they skipped the joyful part of savoring great bites, and ate steamed rice and yogurt just to take in some calories.  One person told the Huffington Post she tried to trick herself with textures that she thought might trigger at least the memory of certain foods, so she ate a lot of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Why does COVID-19 attack the senses anyway?   Researchers say the virus might be binding itself to the proteins of supporting cells that surround olfactory neurons,  and when the virus attacks those cells, the neurons stop working  Some patients say it happens suddenly too like they'll be drinking coffee one minute and the next minute they can't taste it.  Oh, that would be the worst.

But here's the good news.  One thing doctors and scientists seem to agree on is that the loss of taste and smell is not permanent because the body is good at healing itself after being attacked.  How long the process takes is different for everyone.

Smell-training can help, and that's giving yourself twenty seconds each on garlic, coffee, mint, or any strong scent whose goal seems to be to perk up your senses.  It's like cardio for your nose.  And when it comes to taste, textures and contrast are key, and they advise you mix creamy with crunchy, tart with sweet, warm with cool, and create other sensations to surprise your tongue.

You probably know people who have recovered from the virus, and they might not have any lingering effects at all.  I know five people who have recovered, and none of them lost their sense of taste and/or smell at any point.  For others, this strange effect really gets a grip.

Once this is all over, there's a lot that we'll never take for granted again!  Add the glorious smell of bread baking and the first bit of warm cheese pizza to the list.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

LOOK: 50 photos of American life in 2020