Loss of taste, smell might be hidden symptoms of coronavirus

Henrietta Brewer
March 26, 2020

Difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, confusion, and bluish lips or face are listed as emergency symptoms for which people should seek immediate care.

"There is potential that if any adult with (loss of smell) but no other symptoms was asked to self-isolate for seven days, in addition to the current symptom criteria used to trigger quarantine", they wrote, the number of asymptomatic people spreading the disease might go down.

Dr. Andrew Wells at Augusta ENT says it's an important symptom to note. What this means is that it is entirely plausible losing one's sense of smell is an early symptom of COVID-19, however, it also could very easily be a sign of a simple common cold infection. Going into self-isolation can contribute to slowing down the transmission of the virus.

In France the head of the health service, Jerome Salomon, on Friday said ENT specialists had observed a "surge" in anosmia cases and said while it was still relatively rare, it had been seen in younger patients with "mild" symptoms. This typically occurs within six to 12 months.

"Anosmia, in particular, has been seen in patients ultimately testing positive for the coronavirus with no other symptoms", the academy wrote. For instance, a significant citation comes from South Korea, where testing has been carried out on a mass scale.


In South Korea, 30% of almost 2,000 patients who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 experienced anosmia. All of these were mild cases. However, the latest data allows us to verify that patients with COVID-19 have symptoms related to our specialty, "they affirm from the Delegate Commission of the SEORL-CCC".

"With the pandemic now going on, if you are young or old and have an unexplained smell loss come on quite quickly, even in the setting of minimal respiratory symptoms, you should be highly suspicious that you might have acquired infection with coronavirus or another respiratory virus", said Richard Harvey, vice president of the Australia and New Zealand Rhinologic Society.

"Previously described coronaviruses are thought to account for 10-15% cases". Prior studies have found that very early in an infection, the virus sheds from the nose and throat at incredibly high levels.

A doctor in Italy says patients who've been hospitalized often report that their spouses are feeling fine, but have lost their sense of smell and/or taste. The symptoms can not be relieved by nasal drops or sprays.

"It is therefore perhaps no surprise that the novel COVID-19 virus would also cause anosmia in infected patients", she said, adding that patients from Italy, China, and South Korea have been known to have the symptom.


"One of the things I think a lot of physicians and patients are struggling with is trying to determine whether these mild symptoms are related to, say, allergies or a mild cold", Holbrook said.

The British statement also advises not ordering sinus endoscopies on anyone unless it is really essential because the virus is known to multiply in the nasal cavity and the oropharynx.

Her dry cough and fever had briefly subsided and her appetite had returned, so she cooked herself a spaghetti bolognese.

The advisory comes against a painful background: two ENT specialists in Britain are among those in critical condition due to novel coronavirus infection.

Since originating in the Wuhan province of China last December, Coronavirus has infected more than 300,000 people and killed more than 14,000 people globally.


For now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn't include anosmia or dysgeusia in their list of COVID-19 symptoms.

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