The sense of smell was never on the forefront of daily news until the world got hit by COVID-19. This spring, reports surfaced that scientists were discovering that the lost sense of smell, called anosmia, was a prevalent symptom and an often lingering after effect of the virus. In late April, the CDC added the lost sense of smell (and taste) to its list of common symptoms and according to a May 20th article from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, up to 80% of people who test positive for COVID-19 have complaints of smell and taste loss.
In March, the new coronavirus hit the New York Metro area and stress and fear levels were at the highest since September,11th. We were stunned by something that we had not encountered before, and little was known about it. I recall feeling like I was living in an episode of "The Twilight Zone”: Streets were empty, no planes flew overhead and I, like so many others was sitting in my office in panic mode trying to grasp the new "now" thinking about how to manage my business through this crisis that we did not know anything about. Both sensory kits I developed are intended to be used by Speech and Occupational Therapists, educators and Program Directors caring for what we know as the most vulnerable of populations to COVID-19: The elderly, and children with developmental disabilities. In mid-March, assisted living communities went on lock down and anyone with an elderly parent in a nursing home or assisted living community were barred from seeing them. All activities and social events were cancelled and we did not know when we would be able to see my mother-in-law Evelyn again. For me, it was freak out time.
Always an avid researcher, I started searching for articles from the BBC, WHO, CDC and NIH and noticed that quite a few articles mentioned that many victims of the virus were experiencing lost sense of smell as a symptom and some reported that even after 3-5 months were still without this important function. I soon realized that I could possibly repurpose Essential Awakenings® Smell and Memory Kits for people with anosmia because after all, it had been useful to a former colleague (Rosie Rosario featured in the image) to regain her sense of smell after she survived several aneurysms in 2018. It took Rosie about 5 months to regain 85% of her sense of smell, and in a video that can be seen on The Scent Guru Group Facebook page, Rosie says “the brain is like a muscle and you have to exercise that muscle”. Scientists and medical professionals such as rhinologists and otolaryngologists were soon saying that smell training could help accelerate the recovery of the sense of smell and is “worth a try”. I jumped right on it, and contacted Dr. Rachel Herz, a neuroscientist (and expert on the sense of smell) who I had met during my career at International Flavors and Fragrances to tell her about my sensory kits, and asked if she would develop a Smell Training Guide for my company. She agreed, and we quickly went into contract and Dr. Herz submitted a draft of a Smell Training Guide within days. We made just a few adjustments to the guide for approval, published it, and I made necessary adjustments to my website, social media pages, and started the necessary communication to inform the public that the sensory kits with smell training guide was available. (The guide is complimentary with the purchase of the kits that consists of 6 sensory prompts and a packet of paper smelling strips).
We are now going into 10 months of this pandemic and we have learned and experienced so much loss, grief and turmoil. I personally know 10 people who have had the virus and one friend lost both his mother and father within 10 days back in May. I among so many, are experiencing COVID fatigue and worry on a daily basis about others who I love, my neighbors and the frontline workers that include pharmacy, grocery store, postal and transportation workers, teachers, caregivers and medical staff who are tirelessly working to keep things going. The best we can do for fellow human beings is to practice mindfulness by being kind and respectful to each other, follow science, wear our masks and get those vaccinations when it’s our turn. I am also going to help support local restaurants and stores with hopes that this will all be over soon!
As we all learn to navigate this pandemic, we can also learn to repurpose and add value to the tool we currently have access to: Just as Essential Awakenings® can be used for smell training, MindScent® can be useful to parents who might be homeschooling.
To end this blog, I’d like to share testimonials from people who have used Essential Awakenings® Smell & Memory Kits for Smell Training in the past couple of months (their email addresses are deleted for their privacy):
From Christina Young of Connecticut:
"I lost my sense of smell and taste when I had COVID in March. Several months later, I was surprised to still not be able to smell and taste. The world seems a bit flat and uninteresting without those two senses. Luckily, I contacted Ruth and she sent me her wonderful smelling kit. The variety of scents and the easy use of the applicators motivated me to use the kit fairly regularly. A doctor explained it to me like this: When you injure your leg, you do physical therapy to regain your strength and agility. This is like physical therapy for your sense of smell. Both taste and smell have improved greatly with the use of the oils, but taste is definitely in the lead. I've still got a ways to go until I fully recover, but this lovely kit has speeded up the process for sure. Many thanks to Ruth and The Scent Guru Group!"
-Cristina M. Young, L.C.S.W.
From Cody Brand in Colorado: On Nov 17, 2020, at 6:50 PM, Cody Brand wrote:
I am finally fully recovered, I can now fully taste and smell - everything is back to normal now. His testmonial:
“Around early April I was really sick, my smell and taste was completely lost for 2 weeks. I’m pretty sure I was suffering from COVID during this time. A few weeks later my taste and smell partially recovered, however, I still couldn’t fully taste or smell. For several days I researched solutions and I read about smell training and the benefits of it. So this is when I discovered The Scent Guru Group, I immediately purchased a smell kit and started using it immediately once I received it. Within 2 weeks I started to notice an improvement in smell and taste, I was consistently using smell training on a daily basis. For about 3 months I used it a consistent basis but then there was period of time where I stopped smell training. I saw an improvement but at some point I wasn’t getting any better. I was starting to think this was a permanent issue moving forward, however, I didn’t give up hope so I started smell training again on a more consistent basis. Finally after losing my senses 7 months ago I am now fully recovered, it was a long and stressful process. It was a rollercoaster of emotion but once I fully recovered I was completely relieved. With this being said, I highly recommend purchasing a smell kit from this company. Ruth is very helpful and has checked up multiple times to see how things are going which is great. Additionally I have since recommended people to purchase this particular smell kit if they are dealing with the same issues. Overall if you’re suffering from smell and taste loss then definitely purchase a smell kit from The Scent Guru Group.”
On Dec 12, 2020, at 12:59 PM, Brandon Hill wrote:
Doing pretty well, thanks! I have been able to stay on the routine. This time I chose popcorn, lilac, jasmine, and pineapple. I can smell all of these ones decently well, pineapple being the weakest for me.
Popcorn is the strongest, and that one is almost overwhelming because there isn't anything else I've encountered that I can smell that strongly. That one is interesting because I'd say it's one of the few things that I'd say I can smell the full range of the scent without bits and pieces missing.
One improvement I'm noticing is the ability to smell a scent in the air. It used to be to smell anything at all it had to be right in my face. I'm still missing quite a bit but I am seeing improvement.
Hope you are doing well, and thanks for reaching out!