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Hugh Grant has recovered from COVID-19, but the memories of the strange symptoms he experienced have stuck with him.
The "Notting Hill" star, 60, made a virtual appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on Tuesday night and revealed that he believes he and his wife, Anna Eberstein, contracted the coronavirus in February. He said that last month he tested positive for antibodies. (Current research shows COVID-19 antibodies can last anywhere from three to five months, but it's still unclear what protection they provide against reinfection, if any.)
"It started as just a very strange syndrome where I kept breaking into a terrible sweat," Grant told Colbert. "It was like a poncho of sweat, embarrassing really."
Then he described his eye symptoms, which, research shows, can be a sign of COVID-19.
"My eyeballs felt about three sizes too big, and (I had) a feeling as though some enormous man was sitting on my chest," the Golden Globe winner recalled. "I thought, 'I don't know what this is.' And then I was walking down a street one day, and I thought, 'I can't smell a damn thing.'"
Loss of smell and taste is another common side effect of COVID-19. In most patients these senses return within a few weeks.
"You start to panic," Grant continued. "By then people had just started to talk about this as a symptom. I started sniffing flowers, nothing, and you get more and more desperate. I started sniffing in garbage cans, and then you want to sniff strangers' armpits because you just can't smell anything. I eventually went home and sprayed my wife's Chanel No. 5 directly into my face. Couldn't smell a thing."
Early on in the pandemic, doctors and researchers started to notice that the eyes, nose and tastebuds could be affected by the coronavirus.
In March, the world’s largest association of eye doctors urged its members to be aware that pink eye, or conjunctivitis, could be a COVID-19 warning sign. The American Academy of Ophthalmology said to be on the lookout for patients who complained of redness, swelling and sometimes a sticky discharge in one or both eyes, along with fever and respiratory symptoms. Pink eye may also be a common COVID-19 symptom in kids, who are less likely than adults to become seriously ill with the disease. An August 2020 study of kids with COVID-19 found that more than 20% had eye symptoms.
Loss of taste and smell is one of the most widely reported, long-lasting symptoms of coronavirus infection, even though it's usually one of the first symptoms patients notice. Initial research shows that most people who lose these senses regain them within six weeks, but familiar scents and taste may be different going forward. It's unclear at this stage whether they will return to normal.
Grant noted that he was joining Colbert from a hotel room in London, where the city is currently in a monthlong lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The U.S. is currently experiencing a similar surge as case counts peak nationwide and hospitalizations soar.