Advice for patients with new-onset anosmia during COVID-19 pandemic
Loss of sense of smell is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 infection and for many, it may be the only symptom. The loss is typically sudden and severe, but may also be partial, or associated with smell alteration. Any new change in your sense of smell during the pandemic should prompt self-isolation and testing.
If you are known to have chronic rhinosinusitis and suddenly lose your sense of smell you should consider whether you are also experiencing a simultaneous worsening in nasal blockage. If you are not and the loss of smell occurs in isolation, you should consider whether you may be infected with COVID-19.
For many people, the loss of smell and taste associated with COVID-19 is short-lived and improves within 2 – 4 weeks. There is no need for any specific treatment during this time. The duration of loss of smell and taste is not related to being infectious and so you should follow the current guidance with regards to self-isolation.
Smell training is an effective treatment and should be considered by anyone with smell loss lasting for more than 4 weeks. Some patients who have lost their sense of smell from COVID-19 report a period of smell and taste disturbance or ‘parosmia’. This can make many foods or smells unpleasant. It is a sign of recovery but may last for weeks or months. Coffee, meat, onion and peanuts are common triggers but they can be different for everyone. Try to modify recipes. Cinnamon flavoured gum and toothpaste can be helpful. Please see the links below for further advice. Losing your sense of smell and taste can have a huge impact on your quality of life. It can be difficult to access support and it can be hard for friends and family to understand how it affects you if they have not experienced it themselves. We have worked with two patient groups to provide resources to help and allow you to share experiences with others who have been affected.
There are sections on smell training, advice sheets, and lots of further information.
If you have smell loss for more than 3 months, your primary care doctor may refer you to ENT to exclude other causes of smell loss, such as nasal polyps, particularly if you have ongoing nasal obstruction. Unfortunately, there are no tests that can predict whether you will regain your sense of smell, but we have good data that shows that a very large proportion of patients will recover and that recovery can still occur many months after the initial infection.
Link to smell training video:
Smell training Coronavirus
Consultant ENT & Rhinology Surgeon
27 Tooley Street, London SE1 2PR
T +44 (0) 20 3103 0066
M +44 (0) 7539 998 211