What Happens When A Perfumer Loses Their Scent Due To Covid-19?

What Happens When A Perfumer Loses Their Scent Due To Covid-19

When Laurence Chirat first heard that COVID-19 could cause loss of smell, she was worried. For Chirat, vice-president of innovation in perfume design for the Geneva-based perfume and aroma company Firmenich, perfume is her livelihood. But in January, when she caught the virus she learned that losing her sense of smell meant so much more.
Within days of falling ill, Chirat, who is trained to assess aromatics and powers, woke up and couldn’t smell a thing. “He was just gone,” she said. She took a shower but didn’t feel clean. Cooking made her nervous: how would she know if the food was burning? She says, “I changed my sheets and found them to be a little gray.” Without the freshly washed aroma, they looked dirty. Chirat says it was like constant low-level anxiety – much worse than the general uneasiness we are all used to.
Research from a survey of 18 European hospitals shows that nearly 86% of patients with a mild form of COVID-19 suffer from olfactory dysfunction. But even Chirat, who works with perfume and knows all about the connection between perfume and well-being, was surprised by the impact of the loss.
Odor dysfunction has been linked to a decrease in quality of life, and patients with anosmia and loss of taste are more likely to experience symptoms of depression than other COVID survivors. Losing your sense of smell also has an impact on memory.
Rachel Herz, PhD, a neuroscientist who studies the psychology of smell and author of The Scent of Desire says, But with smell, we don’t have exact representations that we can come back to.”
Ruth Sutcliffe, a former fragrance developer who helped create fragrances for Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Nautica and others, is well aware of the power of smell. Since 2017, his company, the Scent Guru Group, has been running multisensory workshops to help people with dementia and disabilities use the sense of smell to remember their memories and develop their communication skills. Last spring, when she read the story of a COVID-19 survivor with anosmia, she reached out to offer help. It turns out that the exercises she uses in her workshops can help coronavirus patients recover what they have lost.
Also Read: What Will Our Brains Look Like After COVID-19?
Herz says it’s not entirely clear why the training works, “but it is a combination of cognitive and neurophysiological factors.”
If you smell something that you know is lemon, thinking about it while sniffing engages the brain processes involved in scent recognition, and this, combined with repeated exposure to the aroma, can help reactivate smell receptors.
Last summer, Herz wrote a training guide for Sutcliffe’s Essential Awakenings Smell & Memory Kit, a kit that can help people recover from COVID-induced odor dysfunction. The Smell Project, a newly launched company, launched a similar kit in September.
There is also a growing online support community. One of the biggest is AbScent, a nonprofit advocacy site founded by Chrissi Kelly, who suffered from anosmia years ago and again in April 2020.
Abscent’s website and Facebook groups total approximately 40,000 members. As devastating as the pandemic is, says Kelly, “it solved our awareness problem. There would never have been money for research until there was more awareness, and that was the silver bullet.
Even though some research shows that 95% of COVID-19 patients with olfactory dysfunction regain their sense of smell within six months of illness, it’s a long time to wait, especially for someone like Chirat. Three weeks after she fell ill, she had her first sign of hope. “I smelled the coffee,” she said.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here