By now, we're fairly familiar with the key coronavirus symptoms. If you've got a persistent cough and/or a fever, at this point you can pretty much assume you've caught coronavirus, and should be isolating along with your whole household for 14 days. But there are two more symptoms that doctors are starting to believe may also be a common sign of coronavirus: loss of smell and taste.
Losing your sense of smell is technically known as 'anosmia', while being unable to taste food is known in the medical world as 'ageusmia'. The pair are often linked, as your ability to smell influences the way things taste. Experts have noticed a pattern in that some patients who later tested positive for coronavirus had previously reported losing their ability to smell or taste.
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Over on Twitter, there have also been several reports from people who are isolating with coronavirus symptoms that they have experienced a loss of taste and/or smell. "Before I tested positive for COVID-19, I completely lost my sense of taste. Even black coffee was bland and I couldn’t smell a thing. No congestion either. If you are experiencing this, stay home!" posted one person.
Another tweeter with a confirmed case of coronavirus declared: "If you have lost your sense of taste/smell you may have COVID. That was my ONLY symptom".
This was me 2 weeks ago. Lost my sense of taste/smell. Over the following days felt rough.— Chappers 🐾🐝 🙋♀️ (@Chappers2013) March 28, 2020
Last weekend was really struggling.
I’m now on the mend & yesterday got my taste/smell back. Still feel rough but the support of some wonderful people got me through. #GoodNewsSaturdaypic.twitter.com/Dgg4tjTwMc
To everyone freaking out, yeah I have COVID-19. I am 100% fine and have had colds worse than this. I’m quarantined to stop the spread.— Christian Prior (@prior113) March 29, 2020
⚠️PSA: If you have lost your sense of taste/smell you may have COVID. That was my ONLY symptom⚠️
i completely lost my sense of smell for eight days. i wasn't taking any medication that could have caused it. everything that i read about this symptom led me to believe that i had the coronavirus, though i felt nothing else unusual... (thread)— matthew caws (@nadasurf) March 25, 2020
I know people have being saying this already but I can confirm that post-Covid19 I have completely lost my sense of smell, and most of my sense of taste. It’s astonishing. My cup of tea tastes like hot water. Can’t smell my aftershave.— Ben Lovell (@DrBenLovell) March 23, 2020
Any insight on how long this lasts?
While anosmia and ageusmia aren't yet officially on the World Health Organisation's list of coronavirus symptoms (which you can find here), the body has acknowledged that it's a potential link that experts intend to look into. In a virtual press conference held between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and football association FIFA, on 23 March, WHO representative Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said:
"We've seen quite a few reports now that people in the early stages of disease may lose the sense of smell, may lose the sense of taste, but this is something that we need to look into to really capture if this is one of the early signs and symptoms of COVID-19."
In a post setting out advice to patients written by ENT UK, the professional membership body representing Ear, Nose and Throat surgery and related specialities, the experts noted: "ENT surgeons across the globe have shared reports that they have seen a peak in patients reporting anosmia in the last month. We believe this is related to COVID-19 infection.
"At present, many affected patients do not have other symptoms, or only mild disease, and therefore do not meet the criteria for testing. While loss of smell may be caused by other viruses, we think that it is reasonable to assume that COVID-19 is the cause until tests prove negative. We therefore advise that patients follow current guidelines for self-isolating if they develop new onset anosmia."
ENT UK also went on to explain that "loss of smell following a viral infection is the second most common cause of smell loss. It is therefore perhaps no surprise that the novel COVID-19 virus would also cause anosmia in infected patients," the body concluded.
So if you notice a dramatic reduction in your sense of smell or your ability to taste, it might be safe to assume you've got coronavirus and make sure you self-isolate accordingly.
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