Onset and duration of symptoms of loss of smell/taste in patients with COVID-19: A systematic review

Am J Otolaryngol. 2021 Mar-Apr;42(2):102889. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2020.102889. Epub 2021 Jan 6.


Objective: The aim of the study was to conduct a systematic review of the literature to investigate the time of onset and duration of symptoms of loss of smell and taste in patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

Methods: Two independent authors performed a systematic review of the Medline/PubMed, SCOPUS, COCHRANE, Lilacs and Web of Science electronic databases. The time of onset and duration of symptoms were considered primary outcomes. The sex and age of individuals, the geographical location of the study, the prevalence of symptoms, other associated symptoms, associated comorbidities, and the impact on quality of life and eating habits were considered secondary outcomes.

Results: Our search generated 17 articles. Many of the studies reported that the onset of anosmia and ageusia occurred 4 to 5 days after the manifestation of other symptoms of the infection and that these symptoms started to disappear after one week, with more significant improvements in the first two weeks.

Conclusion: The present study concludes that the onset of symptoms of loss of smell and taste, associated with COVID-19, occurs 4 to 5 days after other symptoms, and that these symptoms last from 7 to 14 days. Findings, however, varied and there is therefore a need for further studies to clarify the occurrence of these symptoms. This would help to provide early diagnosis and reduce contagion by the virus.

Keywords: Ageusia; Anosmia; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; Smell; Taste.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ageusia / virology*
  • Anosmia / virology*
  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Time Factors