Sudden loss of smell and taste could be symptoms of coronavirus infection, warn doctors
Young patients tend to have these symptoms over other commonly known ones. Doctors say patients could not smell their baby's dirty diapers or even their shampoos in some cases
UK doctors have a piece of advice for people reporting a sudden loss of smell: isolate yourself for seven days, even if you do not have any other coronavirus symptoms such as fever or sore throat.
The recommendations come after doctors from South Korea, Italy and Germany observed that their patients lost their ability to smell. Some could not smell their baby's dirty diapers while others could not smell their shampoo. This loss of smell is called anosmia or hyposmia and is considered a symptom of COVID-19.
“We want to raise awareness that this is a sign of infection and that anyone who develops loss of sense of smell should self-isolate,” Prof Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, told the New York Times. “It could contribute to slowing transmission and save lives," he added.
In addition to the loss of smell, patients tend to lose their ability to taste as well. According to Prof Nirmal Kumar, one of the doctors who wrote the report, young patients tend to have these symptoms over other commonly known ones. "In young patients, they do not have any significant symptoms such as the cough and fever, but they may have just the loss of sense of smell and taste, which suggests that these viruses are lodging in the nose," he told Sky news.
Loss of smell and taste is not uncommon with viral infections. Infections that normally occur through the "nose or the back of the throat" often lead to a loss in sense of smell and taste but cautioned that research around the new symptoms for COVID-19 isn't yet widespread in the medical community, Dr Nathalie MacDermott, a clinical lecturer at King's College London, told Sky news.
Even the American Academy of Otolaryngology made a case for testing people with the symptom. "We propose that these symptoms be added to the list of screening tools for possible COVID-19 infection," they wrote on their website.
"There is already good evidence from South Korea, China, and Italy that significant numbers of patients with proven COVID-19 infection have developed anosmia. In Germany, it is reported that more than 2 in 3 confirmed cases have anosmia. In South Korea, where testing has been more widespread, 30% of patients testing positive have had anosmia as their major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases," the doctors said in a statement.
They have found reports of anosmia in the US, UK, France, Northern Italy and Iran. One epidemiologist took to twitter to talk about his unusual symptoms: loss of smell and visual disturbance. "So I was confirmed #COVID19 positive- I had mild symptoms of fever and cough but also more unusual ones like a complete loss of smell (disconcerting) and visual disturbance," he tweeted.
Another doctor made a similar observation in Germany. “Almost all infected people we interviewed, and this applies to a good two thirds, described a loss of smell and taste lasting several days. It goes so far that a mother could not smell the full diaper of her child. Others could no longer smell their shampoo, and food began to taste bland," a virologist named Hendrik Streeck told Frankfurter Allgemeine.