By the Third Day, Most With COVID-19 Lose Sense of Smell

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A University of Cincinnati researcher says a study of COVID-19 patients shows loss of the sense of smell is most likely to occur by the third day of infection with the novel virus. 

The prospective, cross sectional telephone study examined characteristics and symptoms of 103 patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 over a six-week period at Kantonsspital Aarau in Aarau, Switzerland. Patients were asked how many days they had COVID-19 symptoms and also asked to describe the timing and severity of loss or reduced sense of smell along with other symptoms.

At least 61% of the patients reported reduced or lost sense of smell, says Ahmad Sedaghat, MD, PhD, an associate professor in the UC College of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and an UC Health physician specializing in diseases of the nose and sinuses, who was the principal investigator of the study. The mean onset for reduction or loss in the sense of smell was 3.4 days.

The findings are available online in the scholarly journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. The first author of the research is Marlene Speth, MD, at the Switzerland hospital.

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