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Complications related to COVID-19 infections can continue for months after you have recovered from the disease. This holds true even for patients who have suffered mild to moderate infections.

And even as we tend to dismiss Omicron as a common cold or flu, doctors have warned against taking it lightly as it could lead to long COVID.

What is long COVID?

Even after the initial recovery, some COVID patients may develop certain complications that could torment them for months. Doctors term these symptoms as long COVID.    

What are the symptoms of long COVID?

One of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 is loss of sense of smell and taste. "Loss of sense of smell affects around 70 percent of patients who had Covid," said Joaquim Mullol, who heads up a smell clinic in Barcelona's Hospital Clinic, as quoted by AFP. 

And, a quarter of the patients, who have lost their smell because of Covid, do not get it back for months after the initial recovery, he added. Such syndrome for the long term is known as parosmia. It is a smell disorder that makes sense of smell distorted.  

Apart from that, other symptoms of long COVD include fatigue, persistent cough, breathlessness, brain fog and anxiety.

Why it can affect one's quality of life?

Parosmia can affect one's life in severe ways in the long term. Imagine living with a condition where you are eating food but unable to enjoy it because it no longer smells the same. Or maybe there is something burning at home, but you are completely oblivious of it as you can smell it. 

"The nose allows us to smell what we eat, what we drink, to connect with the outside world," Mullol said.

"We detect things that can be dangerous, like gas, spoiled food. When we remove that, the person is cut off from the world."

What are the long-term effects of Omicron?

Experts say there is not enough data as of now to suggest what kind of long-term impact Omicron can have upon us, but it cannot be taken lightly. 

"We have no data yet on what proportion of infections with Omicron... end up with Long COVID," explained Akiko Iwasaki, who studies viral immunology at Yale University, as quoted by Reuters. 

"People who underestimate Omicron as 'mild' are putting themselves at risk of debilitating disease that can linger for months or years." 

Is there any cure?

The loss of sense of smell due to COVID can be regained through "smell training". It is a long and slow process that involves sniffing different odours over a period of months to retrain the brain to recognise different smells.

(With inputs from agencies)

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