COVID Loss of Smell and Taste


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Fever, coughing, shortness of breath. These are common well-known symptoms of COVID-19. But the loss of smell and taste has many baffled. Find out why it is not as uncommon as you think.

Chuck Fletcher, MD, an assistant professor, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, prides himself at always staying healthy.

“I always marveled that I never had the flu,” said Dr. Fletcher.

Then COVID-19 happened, and he was one of the more than six million Americans who tested positive.

“There were times where I was afraid to go to sleep because I wasn’t sure whether I’d wake up the next day,” continued Dr. Fletcher.

Fletcher had difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, and lost his sense of smell and taste.

“I noticed that everything that my wife was pushing under the door for me just started not tasting very good,” stated Dr. Fletcher.

“Fifty to 70 percent of patients who developed COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 will lose part or all of their sense of smell and/or taste,” said Justin Turner, MD, PhD, Medical Director of Smell and Taste Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dr. Turner says for up to 25 percent of patients, the loss of smell and taste could be the first and sometimes the only sign of COVID.

“It could be present before things like fever, and cough, and some of the things that we more commonly identify with the disease,” explained Dr. Turner.

But one potential silver lining of the symptom: a study out of UC San Diego health found patients who lose their sense of smell and taste may be more likely to only have mild to moderate symptoms of COVID. Like Dr. Fletcher who was never hospitalized and now has his senses coming back.

“Coffee was the last thing that came back,” Dr. Fletcher said.

The loss of smell and taste is associated with upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold. However, a recent study out of Europe found that it is more severe in COVID-19 patients due to the effect of the coronavirus on the brain and nervous system.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer.


REPORT #2788

BACKGROUND: Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. Older adults and people who have underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19. There are a wide range of symptoms reported ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Some symptoms include fever or chills; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; fatigue; muscle or body aches; headache; new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; and, diarrhea.


SMELL AND TASTE LOSS: 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 loss of taste or smell. Up to 80% of people who test positive for COVID-19 have subjective complaints of smell or taste loss. A recent study showed that patients who had normal smell function in COVID-19 appeared to have a worse disease course and were more likely to be hospitalized and placed on a ventilator. This suggests patients who experience smell dysfunction may have a milder infection or disease. People with upper respiratory infections often have congestion, drainage and other nasal symptoms that can block odor’s ability to reach the smell nerve, which sits at the top of the nasal cavity. But, the primary cause, particularly for people with extended or permanent loss of smell function, is that the virus causes an inflammatory reaction inside the nose that can lead to a loss of the olfactory, or smell, neurons.


NEW RESEARCH SMELLS NICE: According to a study published in the Journal Science Advances, an international team of researchers led by neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School uncovered which olfactory cell types are most vulnerable to infection by the virus which causes COVID-19. Many patients who lost their smell while infected have turned to “smell therapy” during recovery. Chrissi Kelly, the founder of AbScent, a UK charity that helps people who suffer from smell loss, has been at the forefront of the recovery process for patients. Although she says “smell therapy” is not necessarily a cure, it can potentially stimulate and amplify nerves in the nose that are responsible for smell. Kelly recommends smelling each of her company’s essential oils – rose, lemon, clove and eucalyptus – for up to 20 seconds, twice a day, for a minimum of four months. She also notes that the same desired effect may be achievable by inhaling other scents, such as coffee or spices. “Although altered sense of smell or taste showed an improvement in most cases during the course of the disease, these symptoms were still the most frequently reported by patients with COVID-19 4 weeks after testing,” wrote the study authors in their findings.


* For More Information, Contact:

Justin Turner, MD, PhD                                                          Craig Boerner, Media Relations                                             

(615) 343-8848


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