Loss of taste and smell is weird, but distinct symptoms of COVID-19 so much that they are considered to be a better indicator that you have been infected with the novel coronavirus than any other symptoms, such as cough, fever, etc.
Apart from COVID-19, there are several other causes that affect a person’s ability to taste and smell, which we will discuss in this blog.
Not being able to taste and smell properly can be quite distressing. Do you wish to know the prevalence of these symptoms?
How long do they last? And how to regain taste and smell after coronavirus? If yes, keep reading this post and find answers to all such questions right here.
How Common Is Loss Of Taste And Smell From Coronavirus?
Studies suggest that about 74% of COVID-19 patients lose their sense of smell. Several individuals lose their sense of taste also – probably because smell and taste are interlinked.
Loss of taste and smell are the widely recognized symptoms of COVID-19, and usually, it emerges as the first sign of coronavirus infection.
For decades, healthcare providers have known that respiratory tract infections are the most common and obvious reason for an acute loss of smell.
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, a number of studies have shown that infection with the novel coronavirus is closely linked with higher rates of loss of smell (anosmia) than formerly seen with other viral infections.
Some studies suggest that the loss of taste and smell may be more prevalent in mild to moderate COVID-19 cases as compared to severe cases.
Only 26.9% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 reported loss of smell, while 66.7% of COVID-19 infections treated as outpatients reported the symptom. Similar percentages were seen for loss of taste as well.
What Are Some Other Possible Causes of Loss Of Taste And Smell?
Loss of taste and smell doesn’t always indicate COVID-19. A positive test or the presence of antibodies in your bloodstream is the only precise evidence of the novel coronavirus infection.
There are many other possible causes of experiencing loss of taste and smell, including:
- Allergies: Nasal allergies and non-allergic rhinitis (nasal congestion not caused due to hay fever or allergies) can also lead to a reduced sense of smell.
- Viruses: Certain viruses, including those associated with the common cold or flu, can cause a loss of taste and smell.
- Medical conditions: Certain health conditions can cause a diminished sense of taste or smell, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc. Hormonal changes that usually occur during puberty and menopause can also impact your ability to taste and smell.
- Nasal polyps: Large nasal polyps can obstruct the nasal passage, causing a runny nose, loss of smell, chronic sinus infections, and difficulty breathing.
- Medications: Certain medications can diminish your sense of smell and taste, such as blood pressure medications, heart disease medications, and antibiotics. Chronic use of intranasal zinc products or decongestants may also lead to a loss of taste and smell.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy or chemotherapy to your neck or head can also cause a weakened sense of taste and smell.
- Injury to your head or nose: A serious brain injury can cause olfactory dysfunction, leading to a loss of taste and smell.
Loss of smell also occurs due to aging. If you are really concerned, talk to your doctor about how to regain taste and smell safely.
How To Test Your Sense Of Taste and Smell?
While there are several symptoms of COVID-19, loss of taste and smell are usually the only symptoms most infected people notice at first.
So, it may be beneficial to conduct an at-home test called the “jelly bean” test to monitor your senses periodically.
For this test, you need to hold a jellybean in one hand while entirely covering your nose with another hand, avoiding any airflow. Then, put the jelly bean into your mouth and start chewing it.
While you are still chewing it, remove the hand that was covering your nose. If your sense of smell is unharmed, you should get the smell and flavor of the jelly bean at once.
This is referred to as retronasal olfaction, and it happens when odors emanate from the back of your mouth to your nasal pharynx and into your nasal cavity.
In case you fail the jelly bean test, it might be an indication that you have COVID-19. You may call your doctor and ask if you need to get tested or discuss getting a simple smell test.
The test will involve sniffing various odors at varied concentrations and is generally performed by an ENT specialist or a neurologist.
How To Regain Taste And Smell and When Do You Need to Consult A Doctor?
Losing a sense of smell and taste could be more dangerous than you might think. What if you can’t smell the gas leak in your apartment? It is also closely associated with anxiety and depression.
If you or someone in your family has recently recovered from COVID-19, you may be wondering how to regain taste and smell quickly and effectively.
The good news is that several people are able to regain taste and smell within a couple of weeks.
Research suggests that over two-thirds of people tend to regain taste and smell within three weeks.
However, for some COVID-19 patients, the loss of these senses may take a little longer to recover.
One study found that one-third of patients still reported a loss of taste and smell, even after 6-7 weeks post COVID-19 recovery.
While regaining your sense of taste, you can experience Dysgeusia or distortion of your taste, where specific items don’t taste the same way they used to before the COVID-19 infection.
If you experience the following signs or symptoms, kindly consult your healthcare provider without further delay:
- Nose bleeds
- Vision changes
- Prolonged loss of smell (over one month)
- Thickened nasal discharge
If you are having a loss of smell post-recovery from an infectious disease such as COVID-19, you can consider going through smell training therapy.
Your healthcare provider may recommend smelling potent odors or essential oils like lemon zest, charred oranges, eucalyptus, or cloves at least 3-4 times a day for 3-4 months.
This can help regenerate your olfactory nerve.
Your healthcare provider may recommend certain medications, such as:
- Oral steroids including methylprednisolone or prednisolone
- Nasal steroid sprays including Nasacort (triamcinolone), Flonase (fluticasone),or Nasonex (mometasone)