Long term serious olfactory loss in colds and/or flu

Acta Otorrinolaringol Esp. 2013 Sep-Oct;64(5):331-8. doi: 10.1016/j.otorri.2013.04.003. Epub 2013 Aug 12.
[Article in English, Spanish]


Introduction: In the general population, we can find 2-3% of lifelong olfactory disorders (from hyposmia to anosmia). Two of the most frequent aetiologies are the common cold and flu. The aim of this study was to show the degree of long-term olfactory dysfunction caused by a cold or flu.

Methods: This study was based on 240 patients, with olfactory loss caused only by flu or a cold. We excluded all patients with concomitant illness (66 patients), the rest of patients (n=174) consisted of 51 men (29.3%) and 123 women (70.7%). They all underwent olfactometry study (i and v cranial nerve) and a nasal sinus computed tomography scan, as well as magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. Results were compared with a control group (n=120).

Results: Very significant differences in levels of olfactory impairment for the olfactory nerve (P<.00001) and trigeminal nerve (P<.0001) were confirmed.

Conclusions: People that suffer olfactory dysfunction for more than 6 months, from flu or a cold, present serious impairment of olfactory abilities.

Keywords: Alteraciones del olfato; Barcelona Smell Test; Cold; Flu; Gripe; Olfactometry; Olfactory disorders; Olfato; Olfatometría; Resfriado; Smell.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Common Cold / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult