Thousands of people worldwide are suffering from the lingering effects of Covid-19 – from severe fatigue and struggling with fatigue to coping with smell and taste loss. Health24 spoke to a number of long haulers. This is Njabulo’s story.

Njabulo, 20

Contracted Covid-19 in March and June 2020.

Covid-19 hit me twice in 2020. The first time, the World Health Organization hadn’t announced the outbreak as a pandemic yet. My doctor thought it was simply fatigue but I had never been that sick in my life before. It started off like the normal flu, but it got worse each day. I had become weak with headaches and fever and started losing weight and my appetite. I couldn't even lift my head off the bed. 

Losing my sense of taste and smell didn't bother me as much because these are normal symptoms when I catch a cold. It was only when it lasted for more than two months that I started getting worried. Then, one day, everything started smelling and tasting off – and it got worse when I caught the virus the second time. Some of my friends had the same symptoms but as the months went by, they got better.

I don’t enjoy food the way I used to. I can taste saltiness, spiciness, or sweetness but not the food itself. Going out with my friends, the meals I order taste nothing like they're supposed to. I never know what to expect from the food that I order, so lunch dates are not an option for me anymore.

long covid

Image: Supplied

Peanut butter smells like a blocked drain

I haven’t had peanut butter since my infection. It smells like a blocked drain, or like sewage. I despise it now. 

I also don’t enjoy eating dairy products like cheese or milk, either. They smell fermented or expired. 

I now hate the smell of food, especially boiled chicken or meats. It just doesn’t smell like meat. I just smell the blood every time. Sadly, I cannot survive without eating, so I’ve had to get used to it. 

I’ve seen a doctor about these symptoms but there’s not really anything that can be done. I’ve explored some home remedies for a long time. I’ve even tried eating burnt oranges but it didn’t work. I tried smell training as well, but most of the items smelled really bad and triggered revulsion rather than helping to heal me. 

I still get headaches triggered by certain smells, especially when it’s too overwhelming. This happens when I’m around people who smoke, for example.

I hope there will be a solution. I am hopeful, though. There are days when I don’t feel very good and scents that I smell in passing linger in my nose. This can make me feel nauseous and ruin my whole day. But I try not to let it get the better of me. 

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