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Updated on May 23, 2022 2:03 pm
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Updated on May 23, 2022 2:03 pm
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Updated on May 23, 2022 2:03 pm
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When Does Loss Of Taste And Smell Happen With Covid

The Good News Is That Various Studies Have Suggested That For People Whose Olfactory Perception Has Been Damaged After A Viral Infection Repeated Short

The way we sense odours is through a cluster of nerve cells called “olfactory sensory neurons”, which are located high up at the back of the nose in a structure called the olfactory bulb. These neurons have tiny hair-like projections which extend out into the mucous-covered nasal lining and respond to odour molecules that we breathe out through our noses.

Early in the pandemic, scientists feared that SARS-CoV-2 might be triggering smell loss by infecting these olfactory neurons and then making its way into the brain, where it might cause lasting damage. Further research revealed that these neurons lack the ACE2 receptors the virus uses to infect cells, but they are found on support cells in the nasal lining which interact with these neurons.

Q: Should People With Smell And Taste Loss In The Absence Of Other Symptoms Be Concerned About Covid

While smell and taste loss can be caused by other conditions, it warrants a conversation with your physician to determine whether you should be tested for COVID-19. We know smell loss is one of the first — and sometimes only — symptoms in up to 25% of people diagnosed with COVID-19. It could be unrelated, but it’s important to seek care, especially if these symptoms are prolonged.

The Vanderbilt Smell and Taste Center can objectively test, evaluate and treat patients, whatever the cause, and can offer interventions that can potentially recover loss that could otherwise be permanent. 

When Foods Dont Smell Or Taste As They Should Try These Strategies To Get The Nutrition You Need

When food doesn’t seem as appealing as it used to, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to what you’re eating, says Whitney Linsenmeyer, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at St. Louis University in Missouri and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “There’s a risk of unintended weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration too, because people also get water from the food they eat.”

Dr. Linsenmeyer offers these strategies for people living with anosmia:

Patients Are Devising Their Own Home Cures To Revive Their Sense Of Smell And Taste

Ever since COVID-19 led to his own long-haul battle with smell and taste loss, Todd Kennedy has seen surprising results with a trick he made up himself: “I went to a Starbucks and got an iced chai latte with hazelnut, which is my favorite drink there, and I took a sip of that and put my mask back on. I realized that when I’m breathing into my mask after taking a sip, I felt like I could taste it.”

Meanwhile, all kinds of fad treatments have popped up on the internet. One is the burnt orange hack, which suggests roasting an orange over a flame until it’s charred on the outside, then cutting it open, mixing the fruit with brown sugar, and eating it. Raves about the trick abound on TikTok, but does it actually work?

“We don’t have research to say this is an effective strategy,” says Linsenmeyer, but she adds that if someone feels a certain food is helping bring back taste or smell — certain Sichuan dishes, for example, made a difference for one New York Times restaurant critic — it’s worth a shot. “If it works for people to eat a curry, say, and they can taste those flavors, it can’t hurt to try.”

Olfactory Support Cells Not Neurons Are Vulnerable To Novel Coronavirus Infection

Glad you asked: What does COVID


This article is part of Harvard Medical School’s continuing coverage of medicine, biomedical research, medical education and policy related to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and the disease COVID-19.

Temporary loss of smell, or anosmia, is the main neurological symptom and one of the earliest and most commonly reported indicators of COVID-19. Studies suggest it better predicts the disease than other well-known symptoms such as fever and cough, but the underlying mechanisms for loss of smell in patients with COVID-19 have been unclear.

Now, an international team of researchers led by neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School has identified the olfactory cell types in the upper nasal cavity most vulnerable to infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Surprisingly, sensory neurons that detect and transmit the sense of smell to the brain are not among the vulnerable cell types.

Get more HMS news here

Reporting in Science Advances on July 24, the research team found that olfactory sensory neurons do not express the gene that encodes the ACE2 receptor protein, which SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter human cells. Instead, ACE2 is expressed in cells that provide metabolic and structural support to olfactory sensory neurons, as well as certain populations of stem cells and blood vessel cells.

Some studies have hinted that anosmia in COVID-19 differs from anosmia caused by other viral infections, including by other coronaviruses.

Pinpointing vulnerability

Smell loss clue

Loss Of Smell And Taste Can Linger After Covid Or Come Back Different

Erika Edwards

Before the pandemic, Dr. Jennifer Spicer used to savor waking up early. In those quiet morning hours, she’d get precious alone time with her dog and brew up a mug of her favorite coffee, using beans from an Atlanta roaster.

Now, she can barely take a sip without spitting the coffee out. Once a source of gustatory pleasure, her coffee now has a chemical smell and taste that Spicer can no longer tolerate.

“I cannot even go in a coffee shop. It smells so bad,” said Spicer, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine. “It’s really awful.”

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

The abrupt change in Spicer’s senses has, by now, an all-too-common culprit: Covid-19. She had a relatively mild case of the virus last summer; in addition to losing her senses of taste and smell, she also had a fever, chills and fatigue for about a week. Her sense of smell and taste did eventually return — but not like before.

Now, Spicer said, certain foods and drinks smell and taste bad. Really bad.

“It ranges from an unpleasant chemical taste to a rotten meat taste,” Spicer said, adding that a recent bite of cheese tasted like chalk. Things are starting to improve, but it’s been nearly six months since she was infected.

The research included more than 2,500 patients in France, Belgium and Italy. The majority regained their senses within about two months.

Covids Toll On Smell And Taste: What Scientists Do And Dont Know

One treatment for survivors of COVID-19 who have lost their sense of smell is ‘smell training’, in which they relearn prescribed scents, such as those of roses and lemons.Credit: Christine E. Kelly

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it emerged that many people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus were losing their sense of smell — even without displaying other symptoms. Researchers also discovered that infected people could lose their sense of taste and their ability to detect chemically triggered sensations such as spiciness, called chemesthesis.

Almost a year later, some still haven’t recovered these senses, and for a proportion of people who have, odours are now warped: unpleasant scents have taken the place of normally delightful ones. Nature surveys the science behind this potentially long-lasting and debilitating phenomenon.

Is Losing Your Sense Of Smell And Taste The First Sign Of Covid

Anosmia or smell blindness, loss of the ability to smell, one of the possible symptoms of Covid-19.


According to a new study, two-thirds of people admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 reported losing their sense of smell and taste and almost a quarter of them said it was their first symptom.

The small study included 93 patients from an Italian hospital who were admitted to a non-intensive Covid-19 unit in March 2020.

The participants either tested positive for the virus with a swab test, or they showed signs of lung problems with a chest X-ray or scan.

When interviewed about their symptoms 63% said they lost their sense of smell and taste. For 13 of the 58 who reported losing their sense of smell and taste, the loss of smell and taste was their first symptom. The researchers also noted that the average duration of the loss of smell and taste was between 25 to 30 days.

“Loss of smell and taste are common in people who have Covid-19 infections, and our study found that these symptoms often occur before other symptoms, like fever or shortness of breath,” said study author Francesco Bax, M.D., of Santa Maria della Misericordia University Hospital in Udine, Italy.

We’ve seen this anecdotally for months where people can’t smell their Yankee Candles or can drink tequila without so much as wincing.

How Does Permanently Losing The Chemical Senses Affect A Person

Although the condition is not as well studied as the loss of other senses such as vision and hearing, researchers know that the consequences can be severe.

One effect is that it leaves people vulnerable to dangers such as food poisoning and fire. For instance, people with anosmia are less able to detect spoilt foods and smoke. A 2014 study found that people with anosmia were more than twice as likely to experience a hazardous event, such as eating spoilt food, as people without smell loss.

Other effects are more difficult to measure. “Most people don’t acknowledge the importance of smell in their lives — until they lose it,” says Moein. Being unable to appreciate the flavour of food is obviously a major loss, but other sensations are important, too. Hayes points, for instance, to the loss a parent would feel if they couldn’t connect to their child through the ‘newborn baby smell’. And Moein says that smell dysfunction has been linked with depression, although the biological mechanism involved is unclear.

Researchers Are Exploring Therapies To Recover Smell And Taste

People who have lost their sense of taste and smell because of COVID-19 and who want to try taking an active role in recovering can experiment with a few strategies, at home or with their physician.

“I tend to use a saline rinse with a small amount of steroid in it that helps to reduce some of the inflammation around the olfactory bulb and nasal nerves,” Del Signore says, describing a method he is exploring but that has not yet been extensively studied. “Nasal rinses typically need to be prescribed, although neti pots can be over the counter,” he adds. “There’s also interest in looking at fish oil and omega-3 vitamins and the anti-inflammatory properties of those as being helpful with sense of smell issues. We’re running a trial at Mt. Sinai to see if fish oil and omega-3 combinations help with the sense of smell.”

Doctors From Around The World Are Reporting Cases Of Covid

  • The Conversation

This article by Jeb M. Justice is republished here with permission from The Conversation. This content is shared here because the topic may interest Snopes readers; it does not, however, represent the work of Snopes fact-checkers or editors.

Doctors from around the world are reporting cases of COVID-19 patients who have lost their sense of smell, known as anosmia, or taste, known as ageusia. The director of the University of Florida’s Center for Smell and Taste and the co-director of the UF Health Smell Disorders Program answer questions about this emerging trend.

Is the loss of smell an early sign of COVID-19?

Loss of smell occurs with the common cold and other viral infections of the nose and throat. Anecdotal reports suggest the loss of smell may be one of the first symptoms of COVID-19. Doctors around the world are reporting that up to 70% of patients who test positive for the coronavirus disease COVID-19 – even those without fever, cough or other typical symptoms of the disease – are experiencing anosmia, a loss of smell, or ageusia, a loss of taste. A new study just published found that 20 of 59 patients interviewed in Italy reported a smell or taste loss. More research is needed to understand this link, but it may provide a low-cost, practical indicator of which people should self-isolate or get further testing, depending on the symptom severity and testing availability.

What are anosmia and ageusia?

Why could the coronavirus cause anosmia?

A Million New Survivors With Chronically Diminished Senses

In the coming year, there will be at least a million new cases of people in the USA with chronically diminished senses of smell or taste because of COVID-19, Piccirillo predicted.

Studies published by the National Library of Medicine and the Journal of Internal Medicine suggest up to 80% of people who have COVID-19 symptoms experience smell or taste dysfunction. Some experience reduced ability to smell or taste. Some have a complete loss. And some experience distorted senses – certain tastes and smells change or become unpleasant – an increasingly common outcome, called “parosmia.”

Dr. Evan Reiter, an ENT and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies the issue, said the rate of patients who report dysfunction with smell is similar to those having trouble with taste.

Fact check:Burnt oranges, brown sugar won’t restore senses lost to COVID-19

“In general, anytime you’re eating something, it hits the taste buds in your mouth, and you’re smelling the vapors in your food at the same time, so your brain puts it all together to determine how you perceive the taste of food,” Reiter said.

Most people regain their senses within a few weeks, but 5%-10% will continue to have symptoms after six months, Piccirillo said. Their senses may not ever return, he said.

Sniffing out COVID-19:Ohio State study proposes using hard candy to test for symptoms

Coronavirus: Loss Of Smell May Be Clearer Sign Than Cough

10 Warning Signs COVID Is Ruining Your Brain

Loss of a sense of smell may be a more reliable indicator of Covid-19 than cough or fever, research suggests.

A study by University College London of 590 people who lost their sense of smell or taste earlier in the year found 80% had coronavirus antibodies.

Of those people with antibodies, 40% had no other symptoms.

The research only looked at people with mild symptoms, however.

Evidence that loss of smell and taste could be signs of coronavirus began to emerge from about April, and they were added to the official list of symptoms in mid-May.

Current guidance states anyone who experiences a loss of, or change to their sense of smell or taste should self-isolate and apply for a test.

But lead author of the UCL study, Prof Rachel Batterham, says cough and fever are still seen by many as the main symptoms to look out for.

She recruited people between 23 April and 14 May by sending out texts via four GP surgeries in London, enrolling those who reported losing their smell or taste in the previous four weeks.

All of these participants were tested for antibodies, and four out of five were positive, suggesting a previous Covid-19 infection.

The study was constrained by the fact that all its participants had mild symptoms, including or limited to a loss of smell or taste, so they may not be representative of all Covid patients.

The thing to look out for is a loss of smell without having a blocked or runny nose, Prof Batterham explained.

Five Things To Know About Smell And Taste Loss In Covid

While fever, cough and shortness of breath have characterized the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its list of common symptoms in late April to include a new loss of smell or taste.

According to Justin Turner, MD, PhD, associate professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and medical director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Smell and Taste Center, it’s not uncommon for patients with viral upper respiratory infections to experience a temporary — or sometimes permanent — loss of taste or smell. These symptoms appear to be particularly prevalent in COVID-19.

Since COVID-19 is a new disease, little is known about the long-term outcomes of patients with these symptoms, but ongoing studies have provided insight into when these symptoms arise and who experiences them.

Pentagon Unsure How Many Americans Still In Afghanistan

The latest study adds to the growing body of research that points to loss of smell and taste as early indicators of the virus.

For example, a recent review which looked at eight studies with a total of 11,054 Covid-19 patients found that loss of smell and taste symptoms were present in 74.9% and 81.3% ambulatory as well as hospitalized, mild-to-severe cases of Covid-19 patients, respectively. The review also found that more than half of them had those symptoms appear before any other Covid-19 symptoms.

Another study, conducted by University College London with 590 people who had lost their sense of smell or taste earlier in the year, found 80% had coronavirus antibodies.

Of those people with antibodies, 40% had no other symptoms. 

So not only might losing your sense of smell and taste be the first symptom, it could be the only symptom.

“Because of that, clinicians should consider a patient’s loss of smell and taste an early indication of infection, one that is monitored closely while keeping that patient isolated, and possibly quarantined, until a definitive diagnosis can be made. While many people show evidence of Covid-19 infection in the lungs, we found there could be more at play than what a person’s lungs can tell us,” said Bax.

In addition to surveying for symptoms the researchers also looked at their blood work to see if there were certain biomarkers of inflammation.

Lost Or Distorted Senses Of Smell And Taste After Covid

The senses of smell and taste are related, and because the coronavirus can affect cells in the nose, having COVID-19 can result in altered or lost senses of smell or taste. Before and after people become ill with COVID-19, they might lose their sense of smell or taste entirely, or find that familiar things smell or taste bad, strange or different.

For about a quarter of people with COVID-19 who have one or both of these symptoms, the problem resolves in a couple of weeks. But for most, these symptoms persist. Though not life-threatening, prolonged distortion of these senses can be devastating and can lead to lack of appetite, anxiety and depression. Some studies suggest that there’s a 60% to 80% chance that these people will see improvement in their sense of smell within a year.

Sudden Loss Of Smell Or Taste Could Be A Sign Of Covid

A sudden loss of smell or taste can be one of the earliest signs of COVID-19.

“But losing your sense of smell doesn’t mean with certainty that you have coronavirus, so don’t be alarmed,” says Dr. Sreekrishna K. Donepudi, an otolaryngologist with Memorial Hermann Medical Group Sugar Land Multi-Specialty.

Dozens of viruses, including for the flu and common cold, also can reduce your sense of scents. “We know from previous experience that 40 percent of loss of smell and taste are due to viral infections,” Dr. Donepudi says. “Of those, 10 percent to15 percent are due to coronavirus.”

Taste and aromas are linked. Your tongue has taste buds that alert you whether food is salty, bitter, sweet, sour or savory. But any subtlety of flavor comes from your nose.

“With swelling and inflammation from a viral infection, particles of air that carry smell can’t get to the top of the inner nose,” he says. “That’s where the olfactory nerve lives. Beyond ailments, age and injury can dull your perception of flavors and aromas.”

When the virus passes, often the ability to detect odors returns—but not always. “Sometimes, the virus attacks the nerve, causing permanent damage and a permanent loss of smell,” says Dr. Donepudi.

At this point, the link between your senses and COVID-19 is anecdotal. But the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery is collecting data, Dr. Donepudi says.

Also continue or start measures to avoid spreading a communicative disease:

Coronavirus Smell Loss ‘different From Cold And Flu’

The loss of smell that can accompany coronavirus is unique and different from that experienced by someone with a bad cold or flu, say European researchers who have studied the experiences of patients.

When Covid-19 patients have smell loss it tends to be sudden and severe.

And they usually don’t have a blocked, stuffy or runny nose – most people with coronavirus can still breathe freely.

Another thing that sets them apart is their “true” loss of taste.

It’s not that their taste is somewhat impaired because their sense of smell is out of action, say the researchers in the journal Rhinology. Coronavirus patients with loss of taste really cannot tell the difference between bitter or sweet.

Experts suspect this is because the pandemic virus affects the nerve cells directly involved with smell and taste sensation.

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • high temperature
  • new, continuous cough
  • loss of smell or taste

Anyone with these symptoms should self-isolate and arrange to have a swab test to check if they have the virus. Members of their household should isolate too to prevent possible spread.

Loss Of Smell Affects Our Health And Quality Of Life

Our senses — smell, vision, hearing, taste, and touch — are bridges that connect us to the world we live in, to life itself. Knock out two of the five bridges, and 40% of our sensory input is gone. Senses add richness and texture to everyday life; they are intricately tied in with our emotions. The loss of smell or taste might not seem as drastic as the shortness of breath or debilitating fatigue that many other people have experienced post-COVID, yet the impact can still be quite demoralizing. You can no longer smell the familiar scent of your loved ones, or taste your favorite dish. Author and poet Diane Ackerman describes these special tastes and smells as “the heady succulence of life” itself.

The loss of smell and taste can also affect our health, causing poor appetite and undesired weight loss. No longer able to enjoy food, patients with anosmia may no longer eat enough, or skip meals altogether. It can even pose an existential threat, by putting us at risk in detecting fires, gas leaks, or spoiled food.

Are Treatments Available For Restoring These Senses

A lack of research means few established treatments exist. But one option is smell training, in which people sniff prescribed odours regularly to relearn them. Hopkins is working with a charity called AbScent in Andover, UK, to get the word out to the public about this training. There is evidence from before the pandemic that it can improve smell function in some people with such impairments, but it doesn’t seem to work for everyone.

Who Is More Likely To Experience Anosmia From Covid

1 in 10 mild Covid survivors face loss of smell, taste

As much as 80 to 90 per cent of people with smell loss from COVID are women. It appears to be affecting younger people more often – the average age is lower by a decade or so.


Twice as many women report it than men

Over 70 per cent of those reporting it are women

Average age is 40 to 70 years old

Average age is 30 to 40 years old

Usually noticeable as other symptoms have become less intense

Can be the only symptom and can appear suddenly

Gradually returns; in those reporting persistence beyond a month 1 in 3 may recover over 3 years

Usually returns to normal within 2 to 3 weeks in 85 to 90 per cent of cases; recovery in the remainder as yet unknown

True taste not usually affected

Bitter and sweet taste may also be reduced

What Should You Do If You Lose Your Sense Of Smell

If your loss of smell isn’t attached to an obvious illness — a cold, sinus congestion, or even COVID-19 – then you should definitely check with your health care provider, Dr. Sindwani notes.

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This situation, like so many others, is further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, though. “If you have other COVID-19 symptoms, you should follow COVID-19 guidelines and get tested.”

But, he adds, if it’s the only symptom you have, make that appointment and be sure to make follow-ups to track the progress. “If it’s COVID-19-related or related to another viral infection, it generally resolves itself within a few weeks. It’s after it’s been going on for longer than that we get more concerned,” he says.

Can it be treated?

If you lose your sense of smell, chances are you’re going to want it back. And that leads to the question of treatment. “We treat what we know at first,” says Dr. Sindwani. “If it’s a polyp or a tumor, those have their own specific treatments. The loss of smell is actually a symptom of the problem.”

Nasal polyps and chronic sinusitis are the most common problems, he says, noting there are treatment options, including surgery, for those issues. Whether it’s medication or surgery, there are options.

With post-viral issues – as well as with other occurrences caused by aging, Parkinson’s, trauma and, occasionally, congenital cases – Dr. Sindwani says that steroids, either by mouth or nasal steroids, can also work.

Olfactory training

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