Loss of the sense of smell is most likely to occur by the third day of infection with the novel coronavirus, according to a study of over 100 COVID-19 patients which may help public health experts better identify those carrying the virus without adverse symptoms.
The telephonic study, whose results were published in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, examined characteristics and symptoms of 103 patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 over a six-week period. The patients from Aarau, Switzerland provided data on the number of days they had COVID-19 symptoms, and the timing and severity of their loss of smell, said study co-author, Ahmad Sedaghat from the University of Cincinnati in the US. Of the 103 patients, at least 61 per cent reported reduced or lost sense of smell, Sedaghat said, adding that the mean onset for reduction or loss in the sense of smell was 3.4 days.
“We also found in this study that the severity of the loss of smell is correlated with how bad your other COVID-19 symptoms will be,” Sedaghat said.
“If the anosmia, also known as loss of smell, is worse, the patients reported worse shortness of breath, and more severe fever and cough,” he added. According to the scientist, the relationship between decreased sense of smell and the rest of the COVID-19 is something to be aware of.
“If someone has a decreased sense of smell with COVID-19, we know they are within the first week of the disease course, and there is still another week or two to expect,” he added. The findings indicated that a decreased sense of smell may be an indicator of patients early in the disease course as well as those who may go on to develop more severe symptoms, like shortness of breath, Sedaghat said. He cautioned that while the loss of smell is an indicator of COVID-19, it’s not the only factor.
“When you start to experience serious symptoms of COVID-19 which include shortness of breath and respiratory distress, that’s when you should become alarmed,” he said. Younger patients and women in the study were also more likely to experience a decreased loss of smell, the study noted.