A woman who caught Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic says she can no longer eat meat as it ‘tastes like petrol’.
Pasquale Hester, 34, was struck down by the coronavirus back in March and it left her with a distorted sense of taste and smell.
The child behaviour centre manager from Bingley, West Yorks, says she can now only eat just raw vegetables and mild cheeses.
Pasquale’s distorted sense – known as parosmia – has trapped her in a “living nightmare”.
She said: “Never in a million years would I have considered being a vegetarian before this but now I have no choice.
“I’ve not eaten meat for months now. Eating is no longer enjoyable, it’s a chore.
“Raw vegetables like sugar snap peas carrots and mushrooms are okay but anything that produces steam smells horrific.”
Pasquale lost her sense of taste and smell when coronavirus first took hold of the UK in March – but her only other symptom was a stuffy nose, which doctors dismissed as hayfever.
Three months later when her tastebuds returned, she could tell something wasn’t right, as everything suddenly had an underlying chemical-like aroma with fried food and toothpaste smelling so bad it made her retch.
Desperate for answers Pasquale searched the internet for an explanation and discovered a Facebook community of post-Covid-19 survivors who were all experiencing the same thing.
Now, the phenomenon which has been added to the NHS website as a recognised side effect of Covid-19 is said to last weeks or months but Pasquale says things are only getting worse
She said: “I couldn’t smell or taste anything for months, it was only when I bought a cup of coffee in June when lockdown was finally lifted that I thought ‘I can smell that’ but it didn’t smell right.
“Then lots of things started to smell really funny. If I went past a McDonald’s or somewhere with fried food it literally made me retch.
“I went to eat a poppadom and I spat it straight back out because it tasted just like paint.
“Around the same time I went to clean my teeth and the toothpaste tasted absolutely disgusting.
“I went and bought a new toothbrush and new toothpaste four or five times but nothing was helping. I didn’t know what was going on and things were only getting worse.
“I came across a Facebook group for Covid survivors who were all reporting problems with their smell and taste.
“There are millions of us globally around the world saying the exact same thing – you get in the shower, open your nice body wash and it just smells absolutely disgusting. We’ve all got the same diet, it’s all very bland food.
“I come from an Italian background where onions, garlic and meat was a huge part of my diet, now I just can’t go near it.
“I live off mild cheese and sugar snap peas at the minute because that’s all that I can manage.”
Although Pasquale recognises that she is lucky she wasn’t hit with a more serious bout of the virus, she claims her distorted senses are a ‘living nightmare’ which has robbed her of her social life.
She said: “It’s a living nightmare, and it has really affected my social life because you don’t realise how much going out and interacting centres around food and drink until you can’t have it.
“There is no way to describe it and it’s so difficult to make other people understand what it’s like.How do you tell somebody that your coffee smells the same as when you go to the toilet.
“There are some things I’ve found which smell and taste as they should such as a rhubarb gin and Lipton peach iced tea.
“When I tried it and it actually tasted like it should I cried because I was so happy.”