How your child could become a 'fussy eater' after getting Covid

Carl Philpott who runs the smell and taste clinic at the Norwich Medical School at the UEA.
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Carl Philpott who runs the smell and taste clinic at the Norwich Medical School at the UEA. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Children are turning into 'fussy eaters' after catching Covid, say UEA smell experts.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia and Fifth Sense, a charity for people affected by smell and taste disorders, found that more and more children are suffering from parosmia.

Parosmia is a symptom where people experience strange and unpleasant smell distortions. For example, lemon could smell like rotting cabbage and chocolate could smell like petrol. 

This sensation would make it hard for children to eat even foods they enjoy.

Leading smell expert from the UEA's Medical School, Professor Carl Philpott, said: “We know that approximately 250,000 adults in the UK have suffered parosmia as a result of a Covid infection. But in the last few months, we’ve become more aware that it’s affecting children too.

“Until now it hasn’t really been recognised by medical professionals, they think kids are being difficult without realising the underlying problem.

“For some children - and particularly those who already had issues with food – it can be really difficult. I expect there are a lot of parents at their wit's end and really worried."

Professor Philpott and Fifth Sense are releasing guidance to help people to recognise the disorder.

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Parents can help their children by keeping a diary to make a note of foods that are safe and those that are triggers.

Professor Carl Philpott said: “There are lots of common triggers - for example cooking meat and onions or garlic and the smell of fresh coffee brewing, but these can vary from child to child.

“Children should be encouraged to try different foods with milder flavours such as pasta, bananas, or mild cheese - to see what they can cope with.

“Vanilla or flavourless protein and vitamin milkshakes can help children get nutrients without taste. And children could hold their nose to help them block out the flavour.”

"Children and adults should consider ‘smell training’ – which has emerged as a simple treatment option for smell loss.

“Smell training involves sniffing four different odours – for example, eucalyptus, lemon, rose, cinnamon, chocolate, coffee, or lavender - twice a day every day for several months.

“Children should use smells that they are familiar with and are not triggers. In younger children, this might not be helpful, but in teenagers this might be something they can tolerate.”