#MSCOVID19: loss of smell

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As you are aware that about 30% of people with COVID-19 present with loss of smell (anosmia) and/or loss of taste (ageusia). The loss of smell happens because the coronavirus damages the nerve endings in the olfactory epithelium in the nose. The good news is that it looks like most people recover their sense of smell and taste, but the recovery can take many months. At present we don’t know how many affected people don’t recover smell. 

As MS affects smell and taste pathways within the brain it is likely that pwMS are a greater risk of developing abnormal smell and taste function with COVID-19 and may also take longer to recover function. This will need to be studied in the MS population to see if these assumptions or hypotheses are correct.

We do know that losing smell and taste affects your quality of life and is often associated with depression. Is there anything you can do to address this problem? Smell specialists recommend smell training, which can be self-administered. Two very good web resources are run by the UK charities Fifth Sense and Abscent. To start smell training you will need to create your own smell kit; this web resource from Abscent is self-explanatory. 

I am interested to know if any of you who have COVID-19 are suffering from a persistent loss of smell and taste and how has it affected your life? Please let us know if smell training makes a difference. 

Lapostolle et al. Clinical Features of 1487 COVID-19 Patients With Outpatient Management in the Greater Paris: The COVID-call Study. Intern Emerg Med 2020 May 30. doi: 10.1007/s11739-020-02379-z. 

Clinical features of COVID-19 have been mostly described in hospitalized patients with and without ICU admission. Yet, up to 80% of patients are managed in an outpatient setting. This population is poorly documented. In France, health authorities recommend outpatient management of patients presenting mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms. The aim of this study was to describe their clinical characteristics. The study took place in an emergency medical dispatching center located in the Greater Paris region. Patients included in this survey met confirmed COVID-19 infection criteria according to the WHO definition. We investigated clinical features and classified symptoms as general, digestive, ear-nose-throat, thoracic symptoms, and eye disease. Patients were included between March 24 and April 6 2020. 1487 patients included: 700 (47%) males and 752 (51%) females, with a median age of 44 (32-57) years. In addition to dry cough and fever reported in more than 90% of cases, the most common symptoms were general symptoms: body aches/myalgia (N = 845; 57%), headache (N = 824; 55%), and asthenia (N = 886; 60%); shortness of breath (N = 479; 32%) and ear-nose-throat symptoms such as anosmia (N = 415; 28%) and ageusia (N = 422; 28%). Chest pain was reported in 320 (21%) cases and hemoptysis in 41 (3%) cases. The main difference between male and female patients was an increased prevalence of ear-nose-throat symptoms as well as diarrhea, chest pains, and headaches in female patients. General symptoms and ear-nose-throat symptoms were predominant in COVID-19 patients presenting mild-to-moderate symptoms. Shortness of breath and chest pain were remarkably frequent.

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About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.

1 comment

  • I have MS and my sense of smell has changed so I may have had covid. It has not worried me at the moment although I am infact a chef! I am hoping it will resolve itself. There are just certain things that smell different one of them being elderflowers. I only realised when I was about to make some cordial, and sniffed it to make sure it was definitely elderflower

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