COVID-19 School of Medicine

Podcast: Loss of smell, heart problems common symptoms for long-haulers

Many people who have had COVID-19 struggle for months with heart problems, shortness of breath, fatigue or loss of smell. In this episode of "Show Me the Science," we hear about how doctors are trying to help them return to something closer to pre-COVID life. For some, that means trying to retrain their ability to smell by smelling essential oils. (Getty Images)

In the year since COVID-19 infections first appeared in the United States, a few things have become clear. One is that many who get sick don’t recover quickly. Even those who don’t have to be hospitalized can experience symptoms that linger. Called long-haulers, these individuals suffer from a variety of issues such as shortness of breath, abnormal heart rhythms, fatigue and loss of the ability to smell. In fact, many people first realize they may be infected with the virus when they notice they’ve lost the ability to taste and smell food. For most, these symptoms disappear quickly, but some people continue to struggle.

Doctors and researchers at the School of Medicine are working with long-haulers to help them deal with these lasting effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In this episode, we’ll hear from ear, nose & throat specialist Jay F. Piccirillo, MD, a professor of otolaryngology and the department’s vice chair for research. He is conducting several studies involving long-haulers, trying to help them regain the ability to smell. We’ll also hear from Amanda K. Verma, MD, an assistant professor of medicine and a cardiologist who normally works with very sick patients whose heart disease has made them candidates for implanted heart assist devices or even transplants. Over the last year, she’s seen many long-haul COVID-19 patients who have developed problems such as fatigue, shortness of breath, rapid pounding of the heart and chest pain.

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