4 of 5 Individuals Who Had COVID-19 Recover Sense of Smell and Taste


Those who are younger than aged 40 years tend to regain these senses at higher rates than those who are older.

Four of 5 individuals who lost their sense of smell or taste related to COVID-19 saw those senses return within 6 months, the results of an ongoing study by Virginia Commonwealth University show.

“Increased likelihood of recovering smell in subjects with nasal congestion stands to reason simply because you can lose your sense of smell because you’re badly congested and odors can’t get into your nose,” Evan Reiter, MD, medical director of the Smell and Taste Center at VCU Health, said in a statement.

In a survey, 798 individuals, who were aged 18 years or older, reported that they had lost their sense of smell and taste because of COVID-19, but those who were younger than aged 40 years recovered those senses at a higher rate than those who were older.

Individuals who had a history of head injury and those who experienced shortness of breath during COVID-19 were less likely to recover their sense of smell.

Those who had nasal congestion had a higher likelihood of recovering their sense of smell.

“Certainly, a subset of those people who are congested might have just lost their sense of smell because they were badly congested, rather than because of nerve damage due to the virus, as in other cases,” Reiter said.

An ongoing study of nearly 3000 people across the United States tracks COVID-19 symptoms over time.

The results showed that 43% of individuals reported feeling depressed, and 56% reported a decreased enjoyment of life while experiencing their loss of smell or taste. The biggest quality-of-life concern from 87% of the individuals was the reduced enjoyment of food. About 55% of individuals reported a loss of appetite, and 37% reported unintentional weight loss.

“The more we learn from those who’ve been affected, the better we can advise their health care providers and even individuals themselves on how to manage those symptoms,” Daniel Coelho, MD, professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at VCU, said in the statement. “Through this study, we continue to gain a clearer picture of the risks COVID-19 poses to quality of life, safety, and long-term health and well-being while seeking answers on treatment.”

Investigators reported that using essential oils can help regain the sense of smell, and they will investigate how different variants can affect smell and taste loss and recovery.

The study results were published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology.


Study: those under 40 are more likely than older adults to recover COVID-related smell and taste loss. EurekAlert. News release. October 5, 2021. Accessed on October 6, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/930615

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