With the arrival of the Coronavirus in 2019, its symptoms weren’t specific and were discovered after it affected more and more people with time. CDC then listed loss of taste and smell as a symptom of COVID after observing many patients infected by Corona. (1) They weren’t sure about how long it would linger as many infected patients struggled even after recovery. Studies then confirmed that around 85-90% of people lose their sense of taste and smell after contracting the virus. (2) In the medical world, this infliction is known as Anosmia.
What is Anosmia?
Anosmia is a medical term for the loss of ability to smell. The patients often experience both Anosmia and Ageusia, which is the loss of taste. These senses are closely linked to each other hence, loss of one can have an impact on the other. (1) Our body can smell things due to the presence of olfactory sensory neurons, which are located high inside our nose. These neurons send messages to your brain, which then identifies what you are smelling. We experience Anosmia and Ageusia when the channels that let the smell travel up to the olfactory sensory cells get blocked.
Loss of Taste and Smell After COVID-19
As Corona is a novel virus, scientists have not been able to find the clear cause behind the inability to smell and taste when infected by COVID-19. It is known as a common symptom after contracting the disease (1).
Some researchers say that it might be due to damage to nerves in the nasal cavity but the damage is reversible as epithelium regrows the nerves that are damaged. This is when the patients regain their senses.
When does the sense of smell come back?
According to studies, some people regain their sense of smell after 10 days. 27% of patients will recover some sense of smell within seven days. But, this isn’t the case for everyone. Anosmia due to a viral infection can tend to linger far longer than doctors thought possible. There are some cases when the patients never recover fully from Anosmia and Ageusia. There also have been cases where the patients started smelling and tasting things again after a year or more. The exact time of recovery is not predictable and can be from a few months to years. The only proven way to recover from long-term anosmia is scent therapy.
Treatment for Loss of Taste and Smell
There are no medicines that could bring back the sense of smell or taste but smell training can be done for a positive impact. (3) Under the guidance of a therapist, scent therapy is the only scientifically proven way to recover faster from Anosmia.
1. Miller K. How Long Does a Loss of Taste and Smell Last After Coronavirus? Doctors Say It Varies [Internet]. Prevention. 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 4]. Available from: https://www.prevention.com/health/a32893550/how-long-does-loss-of-smell-taste-last-coronavirus/
2. COVID-19: Loss of Smell, Taste Might Be Long-Term [Internet]. WebMD. [cited 2021 Jan 4]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200604/covid19-loss-of-smell-taste-might-be-long-term
3. Mullol J, Alobid I, Mariño-Sánchez F, Izquierdo-Domínguez A, Marin C, Klimek L, et al. The Loss of Smell and Taste in the COVID-19 Outbreak: a Tale of Many Countries. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2020 Aug 3;20(10):61.