Smell and taste loss in COVID-19 patients: assessment outcomes in a Victorian population

Acta Otolaryngol. 2021 Mar;141(3):299-302. doi: 10.1080/00016489.2020.1855366. Epub 2020 Dec 12.


Background: It has been noted that olfactory and gustatory disturbances may precede or accompany the typical features of COVID-19, such as fever and cough. Hence, a high index of suspicion is required when patients report sudden loss of smell or taste, in order to facilitate timely diagnosis and isolation.Aims/objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the frequency of olfactory and gustatory disturbances in COVID-19 positive patients from a cohort representative of Melbourne, Australia.Methods: A retrospective descriptive study was conducted on patients who tested positive for COVID-19. Standardised phone consultations and online follow-up questionnaires were performed to assess clinical features of COVID-19, with a focus on smell and taste disorders.Results: The most frequent symptoms experienced were taste and smell disturbances with 74% experiencing either smell or taste disturbance or both. Post-recovery, 34% of patients continued to experience ongoing hyposmia and 2% anosmia, whereas 28% continued to suffer from hypogeusia or ageusia.Conclusion and significance: This study presents the high rates of improvement of both olfactory and gustatory disturbance in a short-lived period. It also highlights the importance of these symptoms in prompting appropriate testing, quarantine precautions, initiate early olfactory retraining and the potential for continued sensory disturbance.

Keywords: COVID-19; ageusia; anosmia; hypogeusia; hyposmia; smell; taste.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olfaction Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology
  • Pandemics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Taste Disorders / etiology
  • Taste Disorders / physiopathology
  • Victoria / epidemiology
  • Young Adult