Olfactory Dysfunction in the COVID-19 Outbreak

J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2020;30(5):317-326. doi: 10.18176/jiaci.0567. Epub 2020 May 14.


The first cases of coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19) occurred in Wuhan, China, and the disease rapidly become a public health emergency of international proportions. COVID-19 can cause mild-to-severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The clinical manifestations of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, fatigue, sputum production, shortness of breath, sore throat, and headache. We performed this narrative review to analyze the current literature on postviral olfactory dysfunction related to the SARSCoV- 2 pandemic. Since the initial anecdotal reports from China, increasingly frequent international reports on COVID-19 indicate that 5% to 85% of affected patients lose their sense of smell, thus highlighting the very heterogeneous nature of the literature in this area. Therefore, we advise home isolation measures and/or social distancing, as well as tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 when possible, in patients with sudden and severe loss of smell who cannot be promptly evaluated.

Keywords: Anosmia; COVID-19; Coronavirus; Loss of smell; SARS-CoV-2; Taste disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / physiology*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology*
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Olfaction Disorders / diagnosis
  • Olfaction Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / therapy
  • Olfactory Bulb / anatomy & histology
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Smell