Pharmaceutical retailer Dis-Chem, has partnered with the solidarity fund to offer free Covid-19 testing to South Africans in need. FILE PHOTO Picture:Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Loss of smell and taste could be long-term effect of Covid-19

Health organisations across the world have recognised anosmia—the loss of smell—as an indicator of Covid-19, following a wave of reports from patients and clinicians about rapid onset of smell loss, even in the absence of other symptoms.

DURBAN – As researchers continue to uncover the long list of Covid-19 symptoms, some physicians are beginning to explore the disease’s possible long-term effects on patients with more severe symptoms.

Health organisations across the world have recognised anosmia—the loss of smell—as an indicator of Covid-19, following a wave of reports from patients and clinicians about rapid onset of smell loss, even in the absence of other symptoms.

Dr Nicholas Rowan, an assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins University said: “At this point, it’s hard to know how common the symptom is. First, there were anecdotal reports of Covid-19 patients who had lost their ability to smell or taste. One study done on patients hospitalised for Covid-19 used objective tests to detect smell dysfunction,”

“Nearly all patients – 98 percent – showed some loss of smell. Smell and taste intertwined but the problem isn’t limited to severely ill patients. It appears to be common, and even a “cardinal” symptom, among people with milder Covid-19 infections.” 

In another study published in April in the European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology found that out of 417 patients in Europe with either mild or moderate Covid-19 symptoms, 88 percent reported a loss in taste while 86 percent reported a loss in smell. Data showed most of those patients couldn’t smell or taste even after recovering from their other symptoms, though about a quarter of them regained the senses within two weeks of their other symptoms improving.

Professor Vincent Deary, Professor of Applied Health Psychology says although this might seem like a minor point, but the loss of smell and taste can have a profound impact on daily life and wellbeing.

“It’s also possible the coronavirus does have some direct effect on the sense of taste. Respiratory viruses, including cold viruses and the flu, are known to sometimes trigger anosmia. Fortunately, the issue resolves for most people. But unfortunately, some patients are left with permanent olfactory smell dysfunction,” added Rowan.

 

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