My COVID repercussions

Sharing the untimely and unexpected effects of contracting COVID-19

Geethikaa Tarra

For the past year, we’ve been trying to move past the effects of COVID-19 as new cases decrease and vaccination rates increase. But it’s hard for me to move on when I haven’t been able to taste my favorite spicy pad thai in eight months. After contracting the virus in March of 2021, I thought I would be fine. I thought I was mentally prepared for this moment since the school had shut down in 2020, and I remember thinking to myself with uncertainty, ‘It’s just like the common cold.’ 

Being sick was weird, to say the least. I barely had any symptoms for the first week — it was the basic sore throat, runny nose and phlegmy feeling. But in some ways, it felt different. I was constantly dizzy, hot and extremely fatigued. Imagine feeling like you had just run a mile, were ravenous and felt like you were about to drop – for a week straight. 

Then it hit me, on the third day since I knew that I had tested positive. Lugging myself down the stairs, I slid into the dining table chair still feeling dizzy. My mom, who was also positive for COVID-19, put a plate of food in front of me. While I don’t remember exactly what the food was, the terrifying moments that followed are ingrained in my mind. My eyes widened as I took a bite and realized what just happened. “Amma! I don’t taste anything, like, absolutely nothing!” I yelled across the room. My mom looked at me with a blank stare, aware that she had used multiple spices. At that moment, I realized that everything I had heard about COVID-19 and losing taste was true, and I was going to have to deal with it.

During the following months, I discovered all the different foods I could no longer taste. Blue jasmine ice cream from Tin Pot Creamery, iced coffee and spicy pad thai noodles all tasted the same like nothing. My favorite foods started to slip away from me. Eventually, I had gotten so used to not tasting to the point that I started imagining tasting things. My brain already knew how certain foods tasted; for example, I recognized sweetness when eating chocolate. This made me believe that I could taste the food I was eating when, in reality, I was imagining the flavors from past experiences and memories. 

Blue jasmine ice cream from Tin Pot Creamery, iced coffee and spicy pad thai noodles all tasted the same — like nothing.”

While my taste was still limited, I came across a box of assorted chocolates that someone had given my family. I personally love chocolate and don’t have much of a preference when it comes to the type. I was craving chocolate —  I reached into the box and grabbed a random one. After popping it into my mouth, my brain immediately became confused. I could tell it was a chocolate shell with some sort of filling inside, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Caramel? Fruit filling? More chocolate? Mousse? After looking at the box, I saw it had a strawberry filling, and suddenly, like magic, I was able to taste the strawberry — or at least, remember the taste.   

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t only lose my taste — I also lost my appetite. This wasn’t too surprising, because when you take away the taste of food, it’s really just a process of chewing and swallowing, which feels more like a chore. Eating isn’t something I enjoy anymore, so I actively try to avoid it. But eventually, I do feel hungry, so I eat something just for the sake of not feeling that empty pit in my stomach. My desire to eat turns on and off. Some days I crave certain foods, while on other days, I don’t even want to think about eating. 

This wasn’t too surprising, because when you take away the taste of food, it’s really just a process of chewing and swallowing, which feels more like a chore.”

Over half a year later, the effects of contracting COVID-19 still affect my daily life. The possibility that I might never be able to taste my favorite foods again, or to the extent of which I used to, is scary to me. But I remain optimistic about the chance that I might wake up tomorrow and be able to taste again and finally, get to enjoy that strawberry chocolate or a delicious bowl of pho that I’ve been dreaming of.