Covid-19 could be turning children into fussy eaters, say University of East Anglia smell experts

Children who've had Covid could turn in to fussy eaters, new research from UEA reveals Credit: ITV Anglia

Covid infection could be turning more children into fussy eaters, according to smell experts at the University of East Anglia.

This may be because they are suffering from parosmia - a disorder where people experience strange and often unpleasant smell distortions.

For example, chocolate may smell like petrol, or someone may smell rotting cabbage instead of lemon.

The smell experts at the University of East Anglia and Fifth Sense, the charity for people affected by smell and taste disorders, say children in particular may be finding it hard to eat foods they once loved.

Fifth Sense and Carl Philpott, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, are launching guidance to help parents and healthcare professionals better recognise the disorder.

Covid may cause people to suffer from parsmia - a condition where people experience strange smells

"Parosmia is thought to be a product of having fewer smell receptors working which leads to only being able to pick up some of the components of a smell mixture," Prof Philpott said.

"In many cases the condition is putting children off their food, and many may be finding it difficult to eat at all," he added.

"It's something that until now hasn't really been recognised by medical professionals, who just think the kids are being difficult eaters without realising the underlying problem."

Prof Philpott added that he is seeing teenage patients with parosmia for the first time in his career.

New guidance suggests parents can help by keeping a diary of foods that are safe and those that are triggers which could include cooking meat and onions or garlic and the smell of fresh coffee brewing.

But these triggers vary from child to child.

Researchers have advised parents and healthcare professionals to encourage children to try different foods with less strong flavours such as pasta, bananas, or mild cheese - to see what they can cope with or enjoy.

Other things to try would be to give children a soft peg to put on their nose so they can't smell, Prof Philpot advised.

The guidance also suggests that children and adults should consider smell training. which involved sniffing at least four different odours - for example eucalyptus, lemon, rose, cinnamon, chocolate, coffee, or lavender - twice a day every day for several months.