Smell and taste disorders during COVID-19 outbreak: Cross-sectional study on 355 patients

Head Neck. 2020 Jul;42(7):1591-1596. doi: 10.1002/hed.26288. Epub 2020 Jun 11.


Background: As reported by increasing literature, a significant number of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection developed smell/taste disorders. Aim of this study is to determine the prevalence and severity of these symptoms among laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 patients. Secondary objective is to determine their onset/recovery time.

Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted from March 10 to 30, 2020 at Novara University Hospital during the COVID-19 Italian outbreak. The 355 enrolled patients answered a questionnaire at 14th (or more) days after proven infection.

Results: The overall population prevalence of both smell/taste or one of the two disorders was 70%. They were first symptoms in 31 (8,7%) patients. Most patients reported a complete loss that in half of the cases (49.5%) was fully recovered after 14 days, with a median recovery time of 10 days.

Conclusion: This study confirms a high prevalence of smell/taste disorders in COVID-19 infection with self-recovery for half cases after about 2 weeks.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2 symptoms; coronavirus; smell; taste.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olfaction Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / virology
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Recovery of Function
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sampling Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Taste Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Taste Disorders / virology