Management of new onset loss of sense of smell during the COVID-19 pandemic - BRS Consensus Guidelines

Clin Otolaryngol. 2021 Jan;46(1):16-22. doi: 10.1111/coa.13636. Epub 2020 Sep 24.


Objectives: The primary aim of the study is to provide recommendations for the investigation and management of patients with new onset loss of sense of smell during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design: After undertaking a literature review, we used the RAND/UCLA methodology with a multi-step process to reach consensus about treatment options, onward referral, and imaging.

Setting and participants: An expert panel consisting of 15 members was assembled. A literature review was undertaken prior to the study and evidence was summarised for the panellists.

Main outcome measures: The panel undertook a process of ranking and classifying appropriateness of different investigations and treatment options for new onset loss of sense of smell during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using a 9-point Likert scale, panellists scored whether a treatment was: Not recommended, optional, or recommended. Consensus was achieved when more than 70% of responses fell into the category defined by the mean.

Results: Consensus was reached on the majority of statements after 2 rounds of ranking. Disagreement meant no recommendation was made regarding one treatment, using Vitamin A drops. Alpha-lipoic acid was not recommended, olfactory training was recommended for all patients with persistent loss of sense of smell of more than 2 weeks duration, and oral steroids, steroid rinses, and omega 3 supplements may be considered on an individual basis. Recommendations regarding the need for referral and investigation have been made.

Conclusion: This study identified the appropriateness of olfactory training, different medical treatment options, referral guidelines and imaging for patients with COVID-19-related loss of sense of smell. The guideline may evolve as our experience of COVID-19 develops.

Keywords: COVID-19; RAND/UCLA; corona virus; loss of sense of smell; olfactory training.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • Consensus*
  • Disease Management*
  • Humans
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology
  • Olfaction Disorders / therapy*
  • Pandemics*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Smell / physiology*