Presentation of new onset anosmia during the COVID-19 pandemic

Rhinology. 2020 Jun 1;58(3):295-298. doi: 10.4193/Rhin20.116.


Introduction: Anosmia has not been formally recognised as a symptom of COVID-19 infection. Growing anecdotal evidence suggests increasing incidence of cases of anosmia during the current pandemic, suggesting that COVID-19 may cause olfactory dysfunction. The objective was to characterise patients reporting new onset anosmia during the COVID-19 pandemic METHODOLOGY: Design: Survey of 2428 patients reporting new onset anosmia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Setting: Volunteer sample of patients seeking medical advice of recent onset self-diagnosed loss of sense of smell RESULTS: 2428 surveys were completed within 7 days; 64% respondents were under 40. The majority of respondents reported onset of their anosmia in the last week. Of the cohort, 17% did not report any other symptom thought to be associated with COVID-19. In patients who reported other symptoms, 51% reported either cough or fever and therefore met current guidelines for self-isolation.

Conclusions: Anosmia is reported in conjunction with well-reported symptoms of coronas virus, but 1 in 6 patients with recent onset anosmia report this as an isolated symptom. This might help identify otherwise asymptomatic carriers of disease and trigger targeted testing. Further study with COVID-19 testing is required to identify the proportion of patients in whom new onset anosmia can be attributed to COVID-19.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques
  • Coronavirus Infections* / complications
  • Coronavirus Infections* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Olfaction Disorders* / virology
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / complications
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / diagnosis
  • SARS-CoV-2