Prevalence and 6-month recovery of olfactory dysfunction: a multicentre study of 1363 COVID-19 patients

J Intern Med. 2021 Aug;290(2):451-461. doi: 10.1111/joim.13209. Epub 2021 Jan 5.


Objective: To investigate prevalence and recovery of olfactory dysfunction (OD) in COVID-19 patients according to the disease severity.

Methods: From 22 March to 3 June 2020, 2581 COVID-19 patients were identified from 18 European hospitals. Epidemiological and clinical data were extracted at baseline and within the 2-month post-infection.

Results: The prevalence of OD was significantly higher in mild form (85.9%) compared with moderate-to-critical forms (4.5-6.9%; P = 0.001). Of the 1916 patients with OD, 1363 completed the evaluations (71.1%). A total of 328 patients (24.1%) did not subjectively recover olfaction 60 days after the onset of the dysfunction. The mean duration of self-reported OD was 21.6 ± 17.9 days. Objective olfactory evaluations identified hyposmia/anosmia in 54.7% and 36.6% of mild and moderate-to-critical forms, respectively (P = 0.001). At 60 days and 6 months, 15.3% and 4.7% of anosmic/hyposmic patients did not objectively recover olfaction, respectively. The higher baseline severity of objective olfactory evaluations was strongly predictive of persistent OD (P < 0.001).

Conclusion: OD is more prevalent in mild COVID-19 forms than in moderate-to-critical forms. OD disappeared in 95% of patients regarding objective olfactory evaluations at 6 months.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; anosmia; olfactory; recovery; smell.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olfaction Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / virology
  • Prevalence
  • Recovery of Function
  • Severity of Illness Index

Grants and funding