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Oct 27

[ARCHIVED] Young and carefree with no joy for food

The original item was published from October 27, 2020 1:09 PM to October 25, 2022 12:05 AM

Nicole Valentine, Public Affairs Coordinator - Public Health

By Kenny N., Broomfield resident | October 26, 2020
Reposted from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Blog


Like everyone in 2020, my eyes were glued to the news, reading and watching every headline in January and February, tracking and watching all the outbreaks on cruise ships, and dreading the moment COVID-19 would arrive in the United States. Initially, I felt like I would be able to continue doing what I wanted. I’m a relatively young guy in my twenties so I thought that this virus wouldn’t affect me at all. I would still plan for my vacations, and I would still plan on going to concerts because I believed that this virus only affects older people. Well, unfortunately, I ended up becoming one of the first people in my social group to get COVID 19.

I had big plans for 2020. This was the year that I hoped to climb 14ers and travel to Japan for the first time. I wanted to see the Cherry Blossom festival in Kyoto and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic venues. But, if there is one thing we can all agree on, 2020 had other plans for us all. A week after cancelling my flight to Japan, I got COVID-19. I lost my sense of smell and taste in April and didn’t get it back until August. I followed every procedure: washed my hands while counting to 20; wore a mask whenever I went to the grocery store; and wiped Purell all over my body like it was lotion. Yet, I still got COVID-19, and I have no idea how. Did I get it when I ventured out to get supplies from the grocery store? Did my roommates bring it into the house? I will likely never know how I got the virus.

My symptoms were mild but still very unpleasant. I am lucky that I didn’t experience more severe symptoms like shortness of breath. But I want to be absolutely clear that losing two of your five senses is still awful. For almost three months, everything tasted like bland potatoes. The moment I realized I couldn’t taste anything was when I was eating one of my favorite midnight snacks, ramen. I noticed that I couldn’t taste the pork flavor at all so I added some spice and still couldn’t taste anything. I knew something wasn’t right. At the time, the loss of taste and smell wasn’t a known COVID-19 symptom. The more well-known symptoms were shortness of breath, cough, and fever. I did not have a cough or fever at all. After two weeks of not being able to smell and taste, I decided to get a COVID-19 test to see if I could be positive or infectious. The test came back negative. I was so happy at first, but my symptoms continued for months after I received that negative test result.

During the months when I couldn’t taste or smell, I spent hours trying spices, eating various vegetables, fruits, and meats. Everything tasted like mushy potatoes.
I could take a bite from a raw whole onion because I couldn’t smell or taste it. If I had done one of those Hot Ones challenges, I guarantee you that it wouldn’t affect me eating a wing that was over 1 million scovilles. At one point, I felt like I could eat anything, and my roommates would constantly ask me to eat the spiciest or weirdest foods you could think of with my newfound powers.

Here is a list of some spicy/weird foods I tried:
  • Pickled spicy Indian mangoes
  • Shin Ramyun noodles
  • Whole raw onion
  • Sriracha sauce
At one point, I made a list of things I could taste that weren’t mushy and bland:
  • Strawberries
  • Whiskey
  • Salt and Vinegar chips
When I lost my sense of smell, I lost my appetite for all food. Imagine not being able to smell roasted chicken, or the freshness of apples, and the warmth of freshly baked garlic bread. I couldn’t smell anything and would constantly worry about my body odour or if something was burning while I was cooking. Sure, there were some benefits like taking out the garbage, but that got old very quickly.

Shortly after noticing that my taste was coming back, I got an antibody test which confirmed that I had COVID-19 antibodies. You really do get an appreciation for the things you lose. For example, I enjoy eating some spicy foods now. I still won’t eat salt and vinegar chips though. I am pretty sick of them now because they were one of the only things I could taste for awhile. I thank you salt and vinegar chips for getting me through some hard times.

I’m extremely grateful that I only lost smell and taste when I got COVID-19, but I know people who had trouble breathing for weeks. We can also endanger our friends or family members when we are sick. For example, my father is diabetic, and I had to make a sacrifice to not see my family for nearly three months. My story is a warning for young people: You can still face long-term consequences and side effects even if you don’t get severely sick with COVID-19. Please be safe and be smart. Continue to wear your masks, wash your hands, and avoid hanging out in big groups.