Loss of sense of smell and taste may last up to 5 months after Covid-19, new study finds

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • Researchers found that people retain Covid-19 symptoms like the loss of taste and smell up to five months post-infection
  • In a study, the average person did not fully regain their sense of smell after recovery
  • This emphasises the need to follow up on people after their recovery from Covid-19

People who have had Covid-19 may not be able to smell and taste for up to five months after infection, according to a preliminary study.

The research by the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivieres in Canada sought to examine how long that loss of smell and taste lingers, and how severe it is in people with Covid-19.

Finding the loss of smell and taste 

The researchers enrolled 813 healthcare workers who tested positive for Covid-19. The workers completed an online questionnaire and performed home tests to evaluate their sense of taste and smell for an average period of five months after diagnosis. 

"While Covid-19 is a new disease, previous research shows that most people lose their sense of smell and taste in the early stages of the illness. We wanted to go further and look at how long that loss of smell and taste lingers, and how severe it is in people with Covid-19," says study author Dr Johannes Frasnelli in a press statement.

Participants rated their senses of taste and smell on a scale from zero to 10, with zero indicating that they couldn't smell or taste anything.  

The findings 

Researchers found that the average person did not fully regain their sense of smell after recovery.

A total of 580 healthcare workers lost their sense of smell during the initial stages of the virus. Of this group, about 51%, still had not entirely regained it five months after infection. On average, participants reported their sense of smell at a level of seven out of 10 after the illness, compared with nine out of 10 before they were infected.

During the initial illness, 527 healthcare workers lost their sense of taste. Of this group, 200 said that they had not fully regained it five months post-infection.

About 9% of the participants reported a persistent loss of taste when evaluated with the home test. The average rating of the sense of taste was eight out of 10 after the illness, compared with nine out of 10 before getting sick. 

"Our results show that an impaired sense of smell and taste may persist in a number of people with Covid-19. This emphasises the importance of following up with people who have been infected and the need for further research to discover the extent of neurological problems associated with Covid-19," says Frasnelli.

SEE | Covid-19 can trigger body to attack itself, leading to severe, persistent symptoms

READ| Why do kids tend to have milder Covid? This new study gives us a clue

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
33% - 9378 votes
No
67% - 19421 votes
Vote