All I Smell is Smoke

For almost an entire week, my brain has been telling me that I smell strong cigarette smoke. Not the sexy waft of some fancy Turkish tobacco with a highball of whiskey or a cup of coffee. A room full of Marlboro reds and Pall Malls, half put out into a wet ashtray, still smoldering.

During the first few days, I thought this lingering scent may be from nearby construction workers or neighbors smoking on their back patio, somehow drifting into my home’s AC system. However, no one else smells it, just me. And it is everywhere.

After a quick search online, it appears that this may be a symptom of COVID recovery. A recent article in the Washington Post cites that 7% of over 4,000 respondents to an international questionnaire published in the June edition of Chemical Senses reported distortion to their sense of smell. Many reported that familiar foods and scents now smelled off, rotten, or foul. However, in my case, its simply that ambient air just reeks of cigarette smoke and ashtrays. The article also cites this Twitter thread in which the author, a young Pheonix-based funeral arranger, reports the same symptoms. This thread opens into a vibrant discussion of shared experiences, recovery windows, and short-term remedies.

While there isn’t an easy way to tell if these symptoms are related to COVID-19 in my case (or perhaps any other number of respiratory/sinus infections), they are real and they are at times overwhelming. From what I have read, a few possible treatments include using Flonase to subdue the effect (this hasn’t really worked for me), or Essential Oil treatments to retrain the senses by inhaling a number of unique familiar scents periodically.

As a former smoker, the silver lining of this experience is my renewed gratitude for quitting the habit a long time ago. As a smoker, I became nose blind to the awful odor that my habit caused and that I brought with me on all of my clothes. As cigarette smoking has fallen more out of popularity, it becomes striking when someone walks into a room after a quick smoke break. Imagine smelling this intensity all of the time–that’s what I’m going through right now, and I’m hopeful that within a few weeks my neurons will figure out “that’s not right” and plug the scent of ambient air back into the same pleasant socket it had before. Until then, it’s more Vick’s Vapor Rub for me!

Have you been experiencing these symptoms? Do you have any treatment that works? Leave your comments and experience below.

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