Humans and Health

Why Does Covid-19 Make You Lose Your Sense of Smell?

Rowan Cothliff

Among the many symptoms for COVID-19 circling around at the moment, losing your sense of smell is possibly one you weren’t expecting. But it is actually a vital one to look out for if you are questioning your symptoms, due to it being a bit more of an obscure tell-tale sign. Rowan Cothliff asks, why does this happen?

Firstly, it isn’t just your sense of smell that you might lose, it can be your taste too. This is due to the fact that they are connected through the same type of sensory receptors, so naturally a loss of one can affect the other. How does that have anything to do with a virus? I hear you ask, well here’s how:

The scientific term for this symptom is ‘anosmia’ and can be a side effect of many respiratory infections, but reports have shown a substantial rise in chances of anosmia occurring when contracting COVID-19. One reason behind the smell loss is based on the concept that the virus can infiltrate the nervous system. While the virus does not damage the nervous system itself it prevents sensory information from being received by the brain, leaving food devoid of taste and perfume of smell. Also, it is a possibility that inflammation in the ‘sensory epithelium’ can cause loss of smell through restricting airflow, without you even feeling like you have a blocked nose.

The main thing to take away from this is to keep tabs on possible symptoms, no matter how odd

Unfortunately, the recovery of your sense of smell, after being free of the virus, is not guaranteed. There is still uncertainty as to exactly why this can occur, as there hasn’t been very long to study the process the virus takes and how it can cause such side effects to be potentially long-term. Don’t let this scare you, as more have recovered their smell than not. The probability of permanent anosmia from COVID-19 is relatively low.

Wider recognition of this symptom can increase the detection rate of the virus with it being, in some cases, the only symptom that a person has. So, the main thing to take away from this is to keep tabs on possible symptoms, no matter how odd; these signs could help you recognise your own infection more quickly, stopping you from spreading further without realising.

Rowan Cothliff

Featured photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels. Image licence found here. No changes made to this image. 

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