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Vaccines helping to alleviate COVID-19 long-hauler symptoms

Joy Hovestadt lost her sense of smell in March 2020. A year later, it was still gone. But the vaccine is helping.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The pandemic has been a new experience for everyone, with many experts having to learn more about the virus as time passes.

COVID-19 “long-haulers” are starting to become more common. They are still experiencing covid symptoms weeks and months after their positive results. This can be scary and frustrating, but some are reporting the COVID-19 vaccine is helping.

Because this is still so new, researchers and doctors must rely on the people who are experiencing it. A Charlotte woman who lost her taste and smell last March is finally seeing some progress after getting the first dose of the vaccine.

Life raising four boys can get smelly. But it didn't take Joy Hovestadt long to realize sometimes those bad smells are actually good.

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“I couldn't smell the baby's dirty diaper. I could not smell when the gas stove had been turned on just a tick. I couldn't smell, we have dogs, I couldn't smell them,” she said.

Hovestadt lost her smell and taste in March 2020 a month before the CDC added that to the list of COVID-19 symptoms. She chalked it up to allergies and was never able to get an antibody test.

“Realistically, if you had loss of taste and smell and it’s been ongoing for about a year, the reality is she probably had covid,” Arin Piramzadian, the Chief Medical Officer for StarMed Healthcare, said.

Hovestadt’s taste came back after a few months. She tried sniffing essential oils and taking vitamins but still no smell. She's considered a COVID-19 long hauler, something experts say 10-30% of the people who had coronavirus are experiencing.

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It can take a toll mentally.

“After 38 years of being able to smell, I can't smell anything and it's obnoxious. There are times that I was sad and I’m crying to my husband like I want to smell if it could just come back tomorrow,” Hovestadt said.

A few weeks ago, she got the first dose of the vaccine. When she went back to the gym, she thought it smelled different. So, she went to the bakery.

“It was a French bread with that everything seasoning on it and I could smell it," she exclaimed. "And I was like oh my goodness! I don't even have to put it right up in my nose, I can hold it out here and I can smell it." 

Because this is so new, there’s only anecdotal evidence the vaccine can help long-hauler symptoms

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“There’s no reason for people with long-haul symptoms not to get the vaccine and it looks like it possibly might help them," Dr. John Torres, NBC Chief Medical Correspondent said.

Hovestadt isn't back to 100% yet but she'll take what she can get, the good, the bad, and the smelly.

“I can smell the outside. I can come in my house and smell my dogs. I'm like omg why didn't you tell me the house smelled like this,” she said.

There’s still more research to be done on this but experts say the bottom line is people should be getting vaccinated, it is proven to be safe and effective.

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.

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