Covid is turning kids into fussy eaters, experts warn

COVID is turning kids into fussy eaters, scientists warn.

The virus is putting growing numbers of youngsters off their favourite foods by triggering parosmia – a change in the sense of smell.

It can lead to chocolate whiffing of petrol and lemons having the pong of old cabbage.

While this is a another side effect of Covid, experts have said that the Omicron variant is a milder one than those that came before it.

A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron is milder than other strains in the vaccinated, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.

Professor Carl Philpott, from the University of East Anglia, said cases of parosmia in kids were “almost unheard of in children” before the pandemic.

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But now “presentations in children are becoming increasingly common”.

He added: “Parosmia is thought to be a product of having less smell receptors working which leads to only being able to pick up some of the components of a smell mixture.

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“We know that an estimated 250,000 adults in the UK have suffered parosmia as a result of Covid.

“But in the last few months, particularly since Covid started sweeping through classrooms last September, we’ve become more and more aware that it’s affecting children too.

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

Prof Philpott is working with Fifth Sense, the charity for people affected by smell and taste disorders, to help kids get back on track.

He says parents should listen to their children when they say food is now whiffy, and keep a diary of which items are triggering.

Experts say it is easier to start with bland flavours, such as pasta or bananas – or even get kids to hold their nose while eating.

Prof Philpott added: “For some children – and particularly those who already had issues with food, or with other conditions such as autism – it can be really difficult. I expect there are a lot of parents at their wits end and really worried.

What is parosmia?

Parosmia is a term that is used to describe health conditions that trigger a loss of smell.

If you have the condition then it means you might not be able to smell all the scents around you.

It can cause everyday smells to smell different – meaning that a flower could smell like petrol, for example.

Most cases of the illness become visible after you've had an illness like Covid-19.

The main symptom though, is having a persistent foul smell around you.

It usually happens after neurons, also called your olfactory senses, have been damaged.

“Establishing what the triggers are and what tastes ok is really important.

“Parents and healthcare professionals should 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.

“And it may sound obvious, but children could use a soft nose clip or hold their nose while eating to help them block out the flavours.”

Families can also try “smell training” to help recovery.

It involves actively sniffing the same four strong scents twice daily to help their sense of smell return.

Prof Philpott said: “Smell training involves sniffing at least four different odours – for example eucalyptus, lemon, rose, cinnamon, chocolate, coffee, or lavender – twice a day every day for several months.”

Fifth Sense Chair and founder Duncan Boak said: “We’re hearing anecdotal evidence that children are really struggling with their food after Covid.

“If children are suffering smell distortions – and food smells and tastes disgusting – it’s going to be really hard for them to eat the foods they once loved.

“We’ve heard from some parents whose children are suffering nutritional problems and have lost weight, but doctors have put this down to just fussy eating.”

*U.S. research in the journal Nature Genetics shows an individual’s DNA plays a key role in the loss of taste or smell due to Covid infection.

Experts from 23andMe said the area situated near two genes – UGT2A1 and UGT2A2 — is associated with an 11 per cent increase in risk.

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