ENT Head & Neck Surgery Center

Rm 02, 5/F., Kai Seng Commerical Centre,
4-6 Hankow Road, TST Kln, HK
(near Kowloon Hotel)
Tel: (852) 3100 0555
Fax: (852) 3100 0556

Lawrence Chow / ENT Doctor

Lost Your Sense of Smell? It May Not Be Coronavirus!

Do you feel like you’ve suddenly lost your sense of smell and you’re now panicking? Perhaps you think that it’s the coronavirus because you’ve read reports on social media about Covid-19 patients losing their sense of smell. Perhaps you believe that you now have Covid-19, thus, the panic.


But don’t jump into conclusions! While there are, indeed, an increasing number of reports about Covid-19 patients losing their sense of smell, known as anosmia, these are just anecdotal evidence. Scientists aren’t sure yet whether there’s a connection between anosmia and Covid-19.



Contrasting Opinions from the Experts

The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery suggested that anosmia can be used for screening new Covid-19 cases. It based its suggestion on reports that Covid-19 patients didn’t have noticeable symptoms but their sense of smell was either significantly reduced or completely lost.


But there are opinions to the contrary from other medical experts. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for instance, haven’t added anosmia to their Covid-19 list of symptoms. These organizations also said that the simple loss of smell isn’t sufficient reason to make a definitive diagnosis of coronavirus.



Common in Viral Infections

It should be noted that in numerous studies, up to 40% of people with the common cold and flu, among other viral infections, experience temporary anosmia. This is also the case among people with allergies, partly because of the runny nose.  But it’s usually resolved within a couple of weeks or so.


About 3% to 20% of the general population are known to experience prolonged smell disorders. These disorders are more common among older people because of underlying medical conditions and history. These include severe head trauma, nasal polyps and neurodegenerative diseases.


But it’s too early to tell whether anosmia is, indeed, a Covid-19 symptom. One of the reasons is that the connection is based on anecdotal reports instead of scientific studies conducted over the long-term period. There’s also the matter of people confusing the loss of the sense of smell and taste since these are closely intertwined.


A British study was conducted wherein the researchers used an online app to collect data on Covid-19 symptoms from 579 patients. Their conclusion: Nearly 60% of the surveyed patients reported losing their sense of smell and taste. But about 18% of 1,123 people who tested negative for the coronavirus also reported the same loss!


The bottom line: While we are all concerned about the spread of the coronavirus in the United States and the world, we should keep calm and seek medical attention, when needed. If you lost your sense of smell, it may or may not be a cause for concern and only your ENT doctor can give a definite answer.


Seek medical attention if it continues to be bothersome to you or your family members. Otherwise, you may want to stay home and follow the shelter-in-place order, especially if you don’t have fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.



For details of the ENT services, diagnosis, and treatment, please consult our ENT doctor.




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