Loss of smell, taste ‘reliable’ indicator of COVID-19 infection, study finds

People experiencing symptoms encouraged to get tested, self-quarantine

Loss of smell, taste ‘reliable’ indicator of COVID-19 infection, study finds
Loss of smell, taste ‘reliable’ indicator of COVID-19 infection, study finds

A new study out of the U.K. finds that loss of smell or taste is a “highly reliable” indicator that someone has contracted COVID-19.

While there are certainly other potential causes for an individual’s loss of smell or taste, given the current pandemic, researchers say people who experience these symptoms should self-quarantine and get tested -- even if they have no other virus symptoms.

Chuck Fletcher is one of the 7.5 million Americans who became infected with the virus -- even though he prides himself on always being healthy. Fletcher says he has never even had the flu.

But after contracting COVID-19, Fletcher experienced 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,” Fletcher said.

According to Justin Turner, a doctor and medical director of Vanderbilt University’s Smell and Taste Center, about 50%-70% of patients with COVID-19 will lose part or all of their sense of smell and/or taste.

Turner says for up to 25% of COVID-19 patients, the loss of smell and taste could be the first -- and sometimes only -- sign of infection. According to the doctor, loss of smell and taste might present itself even before a fever, cough and other symptoms more commonly associated with the disease.

There is one potential silver lining of the symptom: A study from the University of California San Diego Health has found that patients who lose their sense of smell and taste may be more likely to only have mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19.

The loss of smell and taste can linger for months following a COVID-19 infection; it’s often the last symptom to resolve. Some survivors have turned to “smell therapy” to try to speed up the process.

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About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.