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This bizarre symptom occurs in most mild COVID-19 cases

January 7th, 2021 at 8:05 PM
Coronavirus symptoms
  • A new study has identified one of the most common coronavirus symptoms among people suffering from a mild form of the COVID-19 virus.
  • After looking at more than 2,500 COVID patients from 18 European hospitals, most of the mild COVID patients reported a loss of their sense of taste and smell.
  • Fortunately, most people recovered their sense of taste and smell in a matter of days.

As the US reports its highest single-day record yet for COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, we’re learning something new about one of the most common yet bizarre coronavirus symptoms to be aware of.

A new study of more than 2,500 patients from 18 European hospitals has identified the same weird COVID symptom being present in about 86% of mild coronavirus cases — the loss of a person’s taste and smell. This commonly occurred in mild COVID cases, which are defined as lacking any viral pneumonia or causing any measurable loss of oxygen such that the person is unable to recover at home. Most people recover these senses within six months, which sounds good on the one hand but is also a bit disconcerting — because who wants to be without the sense of taste or smell for half a year?

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Typically, COVID patients recover these senses on average after about 18 to 21 days, according to the study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. However, around 5% still haven’t recovered the full use of their olfactory function six months post-infection.

Olfactory dysfunction (or OD) “is a prevalent disorder in COVID‐19 patients with a higher prevalence in patients with mild forms of the disease,” the study notes. “At the 2 months of follow‐up (mark), 75% to 85% of patients recovered olfaction according to subjective and objective olfactory evaluations.”

Other details from this study:

  • OD was found to be more prevalent in younger patients compared to older people suffering from COVID-19.
  • People with moderate COVID cases had “clinical signs of pneumonia,” like coughs and fever.
  • Severe COVID cases included people who likely already had conditions like hypertension, diabetes and myriad respiratory, heart, and neurological disorders.

Steven Munger, director of the Center for Smell and Taste at the University of Florida, told CNN in an interview that one way you can check on whether you have the full function of your sense of smell is with the so-called “jellybean test.”

Basically, you close your nose with one hand, and have a jellybean in your other hand. Put it in your mouth and see if you can taste it. While chewing, release your grip on your nose. “If you have a sense of smell you’ll suddenly get all the odors and you’ll say ‘Oh! that’s a lemon jellybean,’ or ‘Oh! that’s cherry,'” Munger said. “It’s really a very dramatic, quick, ‘Wow’ type of response.’

“So if you can go from sweet and sour to the full flavor and know what the flavor is, then your sense of smell is probably in pretty good shape.”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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