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Early Signs of COVID-19

Apr. 30, 2020

In the Absence of Nasal Congestion, Loss of Smell and Taste May Be Early Indication of COVID-19.


Many of us have experienced a nose that was so stuffy that it practically eliminated our sense of smell and made our taste buds seem nonexistent. But have you ever experienced a loss of smell or taste without a stuffy nose? Ear, Nose & Throat clinicians at UC Health say this could be an early indication of COVID-19.

The virus that has catapulted the world into lockdown has many symptoms of other viruses and ailments—80% of which are mild or undetectable at all, making it even harder to notice its carriers.

But with ongoing COVID-19 research, experts are finding key differentiating symptoms, like loss of smell and taste that will help to identify the asymptomatic carriers, and ultimately help slow the spread of the disease as doctors race to find a cure.

Ahmad Sedaghat, MD, Ph.D., UC Health rhinologist and associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, explained that he and his colleagues, “…around the world are seeing an uptick in patients showing up with decreased or completely lost sense of smell, also referred to as anosmia, but without nasal congestion.”

Although the prevalence of anosmia in the Greater Cincinnati region remains unknown, these numbers are nevertheless anticipated to increase as Cincinnati prepares for a possible surge of COVID-19 positive patients, and awareness of these symptoms continues through the region.

A recent systematic review of the scientific literature on COVID-19 by Dr. Sedaghat finds the sudden decrease in sense of smell without nasal congestion is a strong predictor of having COVID-19. This research was recently published and is now available online in the scholarly journal Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology.

This research is particularly important because while the primary symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, and difficulty breathing, someone with a sudden loss of smell and taste likely would not consider themselves as a possible carrier and be unknowingly spreading the disease.

Dr. Sedaghat hopes this information will be immediately considered as a public health tool locally and nationally by health experts to recommend that those experiencing any of these symptoms immediately self-isolate and call their provider.