Most of us know how to test for a fever and a cough, but how do you test for a loss of smell?
The loss of smell and taste, along with a fever and a persistent cough, was recently added to the UK Government’s official list of COVID symptoms. This is fantastic news because we have been calling for the government to recognize it for a long time.
COVID-19 typically causes flu-like symptoms such as a cough and fatigue but can also cause loss of taste and smell. Taste and smell can return or improve within four weeks of the virus leaving the body, but it can sometimes take months.
A common early symptom is a loss of taste and smell.
COVID-19 from a Reliable Source Anyone who notices changes in these senses should begin self-isolation and obtain a COVID-19 test.
Changes could include:
- smell and taste being more sensitive than usual
- no sense of taste or smell
- foods tasting strange odors
- smelling strange
When a person contracts SARS-CoV-2 and develops COVID-19, their only symptom may be a loss of taste and smell.
This article discusses the loss of taste and smell as a COVID-19 symptom, as well as how to cope and when to seek medical attention.
At Home, Put your Sense of Smell to the Test
- To test for taste loss at home, try foods with strong seasoning and see if you can detect any differences between the flavors.
- A person’s sense of smell can be tested by selecting two items with strong and contrasting aromas, such as coffee granules and orange, and smelling them separately to see if they can detect any differences.
- Several internationally recognized clinical/scientific Smell Identification Tests are used to assess and diagnose smell disorders.” Scents covering a wide range of familiar smells are frequently used in studies. Still, the most important thing is that you use things with a distinct smell that is easily identifiable and familiar to those being tested. For example, for children, smells like orange, vanilla, and mint are likely to be recognized by children of all ages.” Garlic, coffee, and coconut are additional scents for adults. This is not an exhaustive list; you can tailor your approach to each individual’s culture, age range, and circumstances.
- You should have a variety of smells in your cupboard that you can use for these tests, so there’s no need to buy anything special.” All you need to make sure is that the smell is safe to hold reasonably close to your nose – avoid any potential irritants like air freshener, bleach or other strong smells that can cause a tingling sensation or harm to the nasal passage. A jar of coffee, grated zest of an orange/lemon/lime in a bowl, a sprig of mint or basil plant, and a fragranced shampoo are some nice cupboard examples (coconut is good). Inhale while holding the item close to (but not touching) your nose. Simple!
- Another option is to use perfume or essential oils.” Inhale some of the liquid by spraying it on a fragrance strip or a tissue and holding it underneath your nose. Determine whether or not you can detect odors.
- Absent, a UK charity for people with smell or taste problems, offers a helpful checklist for assessing and tracking smell loss at home. Anyone who wants to use the checklist to track a loss of taste can change the questions to reflect that.
- Doctors use various tests to diagnose taste and smell loss. They may perform a “sip, spit, and rinse” test to diagnose a loss of taste. They may use Trusted Source, a booklet containing tiny beads that produce different smells when scratched, to confirm a loss of smell.
- However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, a person may be unable to have one of these tests performed in person at a doctor’s office. If a person has recently lost their sense of taste or smell and wishes to seek medical advice, they should contact their doctor and speak with them over the phone.
So, if you want to test your or your family members’ sense of smell at home, we recommend taking one of these pantry staples and passing a small amount underneath the nose while lightly inhaling through the nose.
How Common is a Loss of Taste or Smell in COVID-19 Patients?
According to a 2020 meta-analysis, 53 percent of people who contracted COVID-19 had taste and smell problems. A loss of taste or smell, or a reduction in these senses, may appear early and be the first sign of COVID-19. According to the researchers, if more people were aware of this, it could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.
How Severe is COVID-19’s Loss of Taste and Smell?
A sudden, severe loss of taste and smell in the absence of an allergy or other chronic nasal condition, according to one 2020 studyTrusted Source, could be an early symptom of COVID-19.
However, if someone is experiencing any unexpected dysfunction in taste or smell, even if it is mild, they should isolate themselves and get tested for COVID-19.
This loss of taste and smell can occur in people who have no other COVID-19 symptoms.
Is the Loss Only Temporary?
In most cases, the loss of smell and taste caused by COVID-19 is only temporary.
The researchers behind a multicenter studyTrusted Source discovered that at two months, 75–80 percent of people had regained their taste and smell, with 95 percent having regained these senses at six months. They also found that people who lost their sense of taste and smell had milder COVID-19 symptoms.
In rare trusted Source cases, people may require ongoing treatment and monitoring of their taste and smell.
- Taste and smell are important aspects of daily life.
- Loss of taste
- Dependable source and aroma
Trusted Source is frequently unsettling, as these senses significantly impact food preferences. When a person can no longer taste or smell, their body weight may change due to not eating the same foods they used to enjoy.
If a person has lost their sense of taste and smell due to COVID-19, they should notice significant improvements in 4 weeksTrusted Source, though full recovery may take six months or more trusted Source. When feeling overwhelmed by not tasting or smelling anything, focusing on the symptoms as temporary is a good strategy.
When a person is unable to taste or smell their food properly, they can take steps to make meals more exciting. Among these is Trusted Source:
- selecting meals with a range of colors and textures
- For stronger flavors, use aromatic herbs and spices
- incorporating cheese, bacon, olive oil, or toasted nuts
- avoiding meals with multiple ingredients, such as casseroles, because these recipes may dull the flavor of each food
Some people may benefit from smell training to help them regain their sense of smell sooner. The training entails smelling four scents for approximately 20 seconds each day, and concentrating on each smell may aid recovery. We could apply this training to taste by selecting different flavors of foods.
People suffering from a loss of taste and smell may benefit from participating in online support groups and forums.
Why Does COVID-19 Affect Taste and Smell?
It is unknown why COVID-19 has such a strong effect on taste and smell.
According to one theory, SARS-CoV-2, like other similar viruses, causes inflammation inside the nose, resulting in the loss of olfactory or smell neurons.
According to the researchers, the expression of the human cell receptors to which SARS-CoV-2 binds is also higher in the nasal cavity and cells in the olfactory tissue.
Seeking Medical Attention
The loss of smell and taste may be the first symptom of COVID-19 and the only symptom a person experiences.
Other symptoms to be aware of include
- a cough
- a sore throat
- head and body aches
- fever or chills
- shortness of breath
People experiencing these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider online or by phone. They should also isolate themselves and take a COVID-19 test.
If someone has severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, they should seek emergency medical attention.
How does the Sense of Smell Function?
Air molecules stimulate your sense of smell (olfaction). These molecules pass through your nose and mouth and bind to receptor cells found in nasal mucus membranes. The receptors send messages to your brain, informing you whether something has a pleasant or unpleasant odor.
How does the Sense of Taste Function?
Liquid-soluble molecules stimulate your sense of taste (gustation). Tastebud receptors on your tongue respond to substances. There are receptors on the roof of your mouth and the back of your throat. The receptors send messages to your brain indicating whether foods or beverages are sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or savory (umami).
What is the Relationship Between Taste and Smell?
Taste and smell are chemical senses that interact with one another. When you can’t smell foods and drinks, they taste different. These combined senses are what distinguish coffee from tea or blueberries from raspberries.
Here’s how these senses interact:
- Eating or drinking causes molecules to be released, and these molecules cause receptors in your nose and mouth to fire.
- Messages are sent to your brain by the receptors.
- Your brain combines this information to help you recognize and enjoy complex flavors.
How does COVID-19 Cause a Loss of Smell or Taste?
Some viruses cause damage to olfactory sensory neurons, which are nerves that help you smell. This damage could take months to repair. Being sick can also make it difficult to smell if your nose is stuffed up. More than 8 out of 10 people may temporarily lose their sense of smell when exposed to COVID-19. They also lose their ability to taste as a result. Researchers are still trying to figure out why and how the COVID-19 virus affects smell and taste. According to one study, the virus does not directly damage olfactory sensory neurons and may affect the cells that support these neurons. When the infection is gone, the olfactory nerve resumes normal function. Most people regain their senses within 60 days of recovering from COVID-19.
Is it Possible that a Loss of Smell or Taste will Cause Complications?
Meals lose their appeal when your sense of smell or taste deteriorates. Malnutrition, dehydration, and unhealthy weight loss can result from eating too little. You may use too much sugar or salt to flavor your food, and these additions can increase your chances of developing diabetes and high blood pressure.
Because you can’t tell when foods have spoiled due to a lack of smell and taste, you’re at risk of getting food poisoning. You may also be unable to detect fire and smoke, natural gas, or dangerous chemicals in your home or surroundings.
Depression may be exacerbated by a lack of appetite and an inability to smell pleasurable scents.
How is a Loss of Smell or Taste Identified?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and inquire about other symptoms such as nasal congestion (a stuffy nose). Your healthcare provider should report any recent respiratory infections, head injuries, or other problems. They will also require a complete list of your medications and supplements.
You could consult an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat or ENT doctor). This healthcare provider may conduct a smell test on you, and you sniff and identify various scents. They could also make you sniff a chemical, and your doctor dilutes the substance until you can’t smell it anymore.
You can sample substances directly on your tongue for a taste test. You could also sip various flavored liquids and spit them out. Your healthcare provider may ask you to note differences between different flavors or increase the strength of the solutions. Your healthcare provider may order imaging tests of your head and brain based on your symptoms. A CT or MRI can detect cysts, tumors, and other issues.
You should notify your doctor if you lose your sense of smell or taste. While these symptoms can be normal, especially as you get older, they can also indicate a health problem or a medication side effect. Changing medications or treating a medical condition may help you regain some or all of your lost sense of smell or taste.