Loss of smell and taste due to COVID-19 can be reversed, study finds

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A study led by the University of Trieste, Italy, brings hope to those who lost their sense of smell or taste due to COVID-19.

Published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, the research shows that while the loss of these senses can be prolonged, it is not permanent, with a gradual return over time.

The study focused on 88 individuals who contracted mild COVID-19 in early 2020.

Researchers conducted extensive tests over three years, including the Sino-nasal Outcome Test 22 (SNOT-22), extended Sniffin’ Sticks test battery, and Taste Strips test, to evaluate the progression of smell and taste recovery.

Findings: Gradual Improvement Over Time

Results revealed a significant improvement in both smell and taste functions over the three years:

  • Initial Phase: A high percentage (64.8%) experienced smell or taste dysfunction during acute COVID-19.
  • One-Year Follow-Up: Dysfunction dropped to 31.8% for smell and 26.1% for taste.
  • Two-Year Follow-Up: Further decline to 20.5% for smell and 13.6% for taste.
  • Three-Year Follow-Up: Only 15.9% still reported smell dysfunction and 11.4% for taste.

The loss of taste and smell affects not only the enjoyment of food but also safety, as these senses alert us to dangers like gas leaks and fires.

The study’s findings are reassuring, indicating that most people regain these critical senses over time.

The study highlights that sensory loss was more prevalent in the early stages of the pandemic. However, later variants, like Omicron, have shown significantly less impact on these senses.

For those who suffered sensory loss, the uncertainty about recovery has been a source of concern. This study provides a much-needed assurance that recovery, although gradual, is indeed happening.

The University of Trieste’s study is a beacon of hope, showing that recovery from COVID-19’s sensory impacts is possible.

As we continue to understand and manage the long-term effects of this novel virus, such findings offer a positive outlook for affected individuals worldwide.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about Vitamin D deficiency linked to severe COVID-19, and how diets could help manage post-COVID syndrome.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination, and results showing zinc could help reduce COVID-19 infection risk.

The research findings can be found in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

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