Prevalence and recovery time of olfactory and gustatory dysfunction in hospitalized patients with COVID‑19 in Wuhan, China

Int J Infect Dis. 2020 Nov:100:507-512. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2020.09.039. Epub 2020 Sep 17.


Objective: To investigate olfactory and gustatory dysfunction in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Wuhan using a telephone interview.

Methods: This retrospective telephone survey investigated 196 consecutive patients with COVID-19 at 3 months after discharge from two hospitals in Wuhan, China. The characteristics of the patient's disease course and time to recovery from olfactory and/or gustatory dysfunction (OD and/or GD) were collected by telephone interview. Demographic data were collected from the patient medical records.

Results: A total of 196 patients with COVID-19 completed the study. The most prevalent general symptoms were fever, cough, and fatigue. Overall, 19.9% of the patients reported OD and/or GD. In 87.2% of these cases, OD or GD appeared after the general symptoms. The time to recovery from OD and/or GD was more than 4 weeks in 51.4% of the patients. Patients with COVID-19 and OD and/or GD had significantly higher rates of cardiovascular disease than patients without OD and/or GD (p = 0.002).

Conclusions: Recovery from chemosensory dysfunction (OD and/or GD) was slow, with over half of the patients taking more than 4 weeks to recover. Cardiovascular disease might be related to the development of olfactory or taste disorders in patients with COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; Gustatory disorders; Olfactory disorders; Recovery; SARS-CoV-2.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olfaction Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • Prevalence
  • Recovery of Function
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Taste Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Taste Disorders / physiopathology