Doctors Say Losing Your Sense Of Smell May Be A Symptom Of Coronavirus
As knowledge about the newest coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to grow, so does the list of potential symptoms.
As doctors consider the loss of smell as one of the official symptoms of coronavirus, adults who experience it take comfort in knowing they are not suddenly losing a key sense — or their sanity. On Friday, leading ENT doctors in Britain flagged anosmia as a potential new indicator of coronavirus, even in asymptomatic patients. While the major and most common symptoms are still fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath; this recent discovery points to a sudden loss of smell as another symptom.
Why Do Doctors Think Anosmia Is One Of The Symptoms Of Coronavirus?
In a new joint statement on behalf of ENT UK, experts warn the public that evidence exists that suggests that loss of smell may be a symptom of COVID-19. And this is true whether a person shows other symptoms or they show no symptoms at all. Co-authors of the statement, Clare Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society; and Nirmal Kimar, president of the British Association of Otorhinolaryngology; have gone on to urge anyone who has lost their ability to smell to self-quarantine for 7 days.
"I think these patients may be some of the hitherto hidden carriers that have facilitated the rapid spread of COVID-19," the doctors wrote. "Unfortunately, these patients do not meet current criteria for testing or self-isolation."
According to the co-authored statement, anecdotal cases of anosmia—commonly known as smell blindness; or the inability to detect one or more smells—related to the current coronavirus pandemic are rising. Hopkins and Kumar wrote that 2 out of 3 patients experienced anosmia in Germany. And 30 per cent of the confirmed cases in South Korea also reported anosmia. Loss of smell and taste seem particularly noticeable in mild cases of COVID-19 when patients have few or no other symptoms.
The doctors say this has been widely shared on medical discussion boards by surgeons from all regions managing a high incidence of cases.
Because people have no other symptoms, they may be unknowingly spreading the virus. While we all should be practising social distancing, the doctors say it’s especially important for anyone who suddenly cannot smell or taste to stay home.
Is The Loss Of Smell Generally A Symptom Of Viral Illnesses?
Alfred Iloreta, MD, an otolaryngologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital says that post-viral anosmia is a leading cause of loss of smell in adults. “Almost 40 per cent of patients who have a complete loss of smell have some kind of respiratory infection or virus,” he says.
Although experts don’t know for sure what’s causing COVID-19 to affect some patients’ ability to smell and taste; some viruses can affect the olfactory sensory neurons themselves; says Donald Wilson, PhD, a neurologist and physiologist at New York University Langone School of Medicine. "These are the cells that sit up in the back of your nose, and when an odour molecule binds to receptors on their surface, the olfactory sensory neuron (OSN) sends a signal to the brain," says Wilson. That is, essentially, how we typically sense smells.
Those sensory neurons don’t tend to live very long because they exist in a harsh environment; all the things that go up your nose impact them. So each cell dies and gets replaced by a new one every couple of months. But, importantly, the cells don’t all die at the same time, so you never notice when a few are shed.
Some viruses, however, cause OSNs to die more quickly. “If OSNs die then odour signals can't get to the brain and we lose our sense of smell,” says Wilson. Since our perception of flavour is mostly olfaction, many people will also complain of loss of taste. It's also possible, however; that the virus is merely dulling our senses of smell and taste in the same way that a common cold or flu does; through a simple decrease of airflow through the nose.
This explains why doctors think the loss of sense of smell is one of the symptoms of coronavirus.
What To Do If You Experience This?
Patients who lose their senses of smell and/or taste should get those senses back—whether it's related to COVID-19 or another ailment. But something to keep in mind amid the coronavirus outbreak: If you suddenly become unable to smell your coffee in the morning, it's likely best to call your doctor, start self-isolating, and keep an eye out for any other symptoms that arise.
If you notice any of the COVID-19 symptoms, please call any of these NCDC numbers.
- Toll-Free Number: 0800 9700 0010
- Whatsapp: +234708 711 0839
- SMS Number: +234809 955 5577
Make sure to engage in social distancing and stay safe. Do you have any questions? Share in the comments section