Wednesday, January 27 2021
Loss of Taste and Smell w COVID-19
Why Many People Lose Taste and Smell with COVID-19
From the earliest onset of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the biggest mysteries has been why so many people who get COVID-19 lose their sense of taste and smell. Studies have shown that up to 80% of all people experienced this symptom. In many cases, it's the first indication of infection and, in fact, is frequently the only symptom they experience. For most patients, this is a temporary symptom and the ability to taste and smell returns within a couple of weeks.
At first, it was assumed that, because COVID-19 is an upper respiratory illness, that people lost their smell and taste because swelling in the sinus is and a buildup of mucus was blocking the olfactory neurons, which happens with many upper respiratory illnesses, including cold and flu.
As researchers continued to study this phenomenon, evidence started to pile up that it was more of a neurological issue than a physical blockage in the sinuses. In other words, it was thought that the neurons that sense smell were being damaged by the coronavirus. Fortunately, continued research suggests that the damage is being done to cells that support those neurons, which more easily regenerate, than the neurons themselves.
Oddly, research has also showing that in some patients, this results in the connections being temporarily damaged. That has led to reports that some patients are getting unpleasant phantom smells, such as smoke, rubber burning, or garbage, when no known source of that smell is nearby. Or patients have reported that certain familiar smells are perceived is something different, like taking a whiff of your morning coffee and thinking it smells like fish.
Fortunately, for most patients, these symptoms fade away within a few weeks and the sense of taste and smell returns to normal.
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