Covid -19 leads to a range of flu-like symptoms including cold, cough, fatigue, and fever. It also leads to loss of smell and taste. Loss of smell and taste are the early symptoms of coronavirus and anyone noticing these symptoms should immediately isolate so that the virus does not spread more.(1)
Why does loss of smell and taste occur with Covid is not yet clear. It is believed that the virus may enter the nose and cause inflammation leading to the loss of olfactory or smell neurons.
The different types of changes observed in taste and smell in Covid patients are:
- The taste and smell are less sensitive
- No sense of smell and taste
- Strange taste of food
- Unusual smelling odor
Sometimes loss of smell and taste are the only symptom shown by the person who has contracted Covid-19.(2)
How Common is the Loss of Smell and Taste in Covid-19 Infection?
A study found that 53% of people who contracted covid-19 had problems with the smell and taste. In some, it is the early symptom, and knowing this can encourage the early diagnosis and treatment.(5)
A study shows, an unexpected loss of smell and taste without the presence of any symptom of allergy or cough could be an early symptom of covid. Anyone experiencing it should isolate and get tested for Covid-19.
This symptom can occur even in those with no other covid symptom.
How To Test For The Loss of Smell and Taste?
The first test a person can do to check the loss of smell and taste is to try food with strong seasoning and to check for the difference in the flavor.
Take two items with different and strong flavors and smell them individually and see whether any difference can be detected.
Doctors conduct a sip, spit and rinse test to diagnose the loss of taste.(3) To confirm the loss of smell, a booklet containing tiny beads that produce a different smell when someone scratches it is used.(4)
Is the Loss of Smell and Taste in Covid Temporary or Permanent?
In most cases the loss of smell and taste due to covid-19 is temporary.
A study found that 75-80% of the people who lost their sense of smell and taste gained it back within 2 months, a few regained it in 6 months’ time.(1) It was also noted that people who lost smell and taste experienced milder symptoms. In very rare cases people would require treatment for their loss of smell and taste.
How to Cope with the Loss of Smell and Taste Due to Covid-19?
Taste and smell are very important in the everyday life. Not being able to taste and smell is very unsettling as people would no longer like to eat the food they usually loved to. Hence they experience changes in body weight, stress, and dullness.
Following steps can be taken to make the food more exciting and appealing, which include:
- Choose meals with a variety of colors and textures.
- Use aromatic herbs and spices with strong flavor in the recipes.
- Add cheese, bacon bits, olive or toasted nuts to the food.
- Avoid foods with a combination of many ingredients as it may dull the flavor.
Smell training benefits people by helping with their sense of smell to return sooner. It involves smelling 4 scents every day for about 20 seconds. This could help in recovery. Online support groups and forums are also available that help people with loss of smell and taste.
When to Seek Medical Help for Loss of Smell and Taste?
Loss of smell and taste could be an early symptom or the only symptom experienced by a person. There may be other symptoms including cough, sore throat, congestion, tiredness, head and body ache, fever or chills and shortness of breath.
If all these symptoms are noticed, then a healthcare professional should be consulted. Those experiencing severe symptoms should see emergency care.
And if only loss of smell and taste is there, do not delay, just isolate yourself.
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