Anosmia is the medical term for the loss of smell, otherwise known as smell-blindness. Up to 40% of anosmia cases occur in adults with or recovering from a virus. There is perhaps little surprise that loss of sense of smell is a common symptom for those who test positive for COVID-19.
In some countries, as many as 2/3 of COVID-19 patients reported anosmia as a symptom, with other countries reporting up to 30%. It is often the case that a person who has otherwise mild COVID-19 symptoms will also suffer from anosmia – in fact, there is some evidence that more severe COVID infections are less likely to be accompanied by anosmia. There has also been an increase in people reporting anosmia as their only symptom. With this in mind, such patients could be making up the large number of those who are unknowingly spreading the virus, with many not even thinking that this one symptom could relate to COVID infection. If these people do not present with other symptoms such as a persistent cough or high temperature, they may not consider taking a test or isolating.
It is important to note that the loss of smell is often down to a common cold virus. Therefore, anosmia as a symptom alone will not automatically mean the sufferer has COVID-19. The only way to determine this for sure is to book a COVID-19 test. If the test proves to be negative, and the sufferer is not displaying any other COVID-19 symptoms, they will not be required to isolate.
Oral steroids such as corticosteroids should be avoided if a patient is suffering from anosmia, due to a possible effect on worsening the infection. However topical steroids in the forms of drops or sprays, and in some cases, oral steroids taken with antibiotics may be considered.
There are a few other causes of anosmia. These include:
• Nasal polyps
• Sinus infection
• Nonallergic rhinitis
• Rare growths or tumours affecting the olfactory (smell) nerve
It would be impossible to know how many people suffer from anosmia and how many of those cases are COVID-19 related. If every person with this symptom were to self-isolate, there is a good chance the infection rate would fall, but this is not an easy thing to enforce.
If you notice the loss of your sense of smell or taste and have a negative COVID-19 test, contact an ENT professional, such as London ENT, for a consultation.
London ENT offers a wide range of specialist treatments and consultations. Contact us on 0203 865 7225 to find out more information on the services we offer.