A lost sense of smell – it may or may not be COVID-19

Sense of smell - COVID-19

Sense of smell, or olfaction, is a chemoreception through our sensory olfaction system. It is there for a number of purposes such as; to detect hazards, foods and pheromones. Have you suddenly lost the ability to smell blooming flowers? Does your favourite fragrance suddenly smell of absolutely nothing? A growing number of reports suggest that a loss of smell could be a symptom of COVID-19.

Scientists are not yet sure, however. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recently added a new loss of sense of smell to their ‘Symptoms of Coronavirus‘ list, this does not list as a symptom on the NHS website. It’s also not a symptom on the World Health Organization’s list related to COVID-19 or Coronavirus.

American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery – Study

The Academy found increased reports of people, testing positive for the disease, had no obvious symptoms other than a change or loss to their sense of smell.

Sense of smell - COVID-19-coronavirus

The Academy have suggested that using a loss of sense of smell could be used to screen cases. Other scientists and experts in the community have pushed back. The COVID-19 connection is not necessarily very solid. While the CDC have started to officially recognize it as a symptom, the links are still being investigated by the World Health Organization.

“With COVID-19, smell loss might not be happening any more than with other upper respiratory infections,” says Steven Munger, director of the University of Florida Centre for Smell and Taste in Gainesville, FL.

British Study

Released at the start of April, a study collected COVID-19 symptom data from patients through an online app. The data showed that almost 60 percent of the 579 users who reported testing positive for the coronavirus said they’d lost their sense of smell and taste. However 18% also reported olfactory and taste troubles.

Loss of sense of smell, or anosmia, is also common among people with allergies. Up to 40% of people with influenza or the common cold, experience temporary loss of smell, too.

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