Study says a third of long COVID patients suffer persistent smell loss

New research indicated that persistent smell loss was one of the most common symptoms of long COVID, experienced by nearly one third of long COVID patients studied.

The research was published in the journal, International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology, and led by Carl Philpott, MD, a professor at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School in Norwich, England. According to Philpott, long COVID develops during or after the infection of COVID-19, and involves persistent symptoms like headache, myalgia, fatigue, and loss of taste and smell. For his study, Philpott sought to learn more about the symptoms of long COVID, especially those that are ear, nose, and throat related.

To do so, Philpott and a team of researchers analyzed results from the UK Coronavirus Infection Survey from March 2022 which involved over 360,000 people. Each participant was asked about the presence of 23 individual symptoms, and the impact they had on their day-to-day life. The study defined long COVID as symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after the first suspected COVID-19 infection.

A total of 10,431 participants were found to have suffered from long COVID, almost three percent of the surveyed population. Results showed that nearly 30 percent of self-reported long COVID patients suffered from persistent smell loss. In addition, one fifth of the participants were found to have experienced ongoing loss of taste.

"This is really significant because we know that loss of smell and taste really impacts people's lives. Our previous research has shown that people who have lost their sense of smell also report high rates of depression, anxiety, isolation, and relationship difficulties," said Philpott. “It can disrupt almost every aspect of life -- from everyday concerns about personal hygiene to a loss of sexual intimacy and the break-down of personal relationships.”

According to researchers, these results underline the importance of addressing the symptoms of long COVID like loss of smell and taste, which can result in problems beyond physical health.