According to researchers, 95 percent of patients who lost their sense of taste or smell recovered it within six months

By Eric Todisco
January 07, 2021 02:53 PM
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Most patients with mild symptoms of COVID-19 lose their sense of taste and smell but tend to recover it quickly, according to findings from a new study.

The study, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine on Tuesday, analyzed the loss of smell (with which sense of taste is commonly associated) in 2,581 COVID patients from 18 hospitals in Europe between March 22 and June 3 of last year.

Olfactory dysfunction — the reduced or distorted ability to smell, and a common symptom of the novel coronavirus — was reported in nearly 86 percent of mild COVID cases, as indicated by a patient who shows no evidence of viral pneumonia or loss of oxygen, and is able to recover at home.

The study's results further demonstrated that sense of smell reappeared after an average of 18 to 21 days, with 95% of patients getting their smell back within six months.

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Meanwhile, the loss of smell was reported in just 4 percent of moderate COVID-19 cases and in nearly 7 percent of severe-to-critical cases, the study said.

Moderate cases of coronavirus involve patients having “clinical signs of pneumonia," such as a cough, fever and difficulty breathing, while critical cases involve severe respiratory distress in the patients, who are typically older and have “hypertension, diabetes, gastric disorders, renal, respiratory, heart, liver and neurological disorders."

In conclusion, "olfactory dysfunction is more prevalent in mild COVID-19 forms than in moderate-to-critical forms," said lead author Jerome R. Lechien of Paris Saclay University.

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Steven Munger, director of the Center for Smell and Taste at the University of Florida, pointed out in a recent interview with CNN that the loss of taste and smell has affected people long before becoming symptoms of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"About 13% of the population has a significant smell or taste impairment, Munger said.

In addition, other causes of smell loss can include cold, flu, nasal polyps, tumors, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, and traumatic brain injury or head trauma, CNN reported.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.