The CDC Says This One COVID Symptom "May Persist for Weeks or Months"

There is one effect of the coronavirus that the CDC says you should expect to stick around.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has continued to update its COVID guidelines for both those looking to avoid the virus and those who've come down with it. One of the most commonly asked questions among both groups is: When is it safe to see other people if you or someone you know has battled COVID-19? According to the CDC's latest guidelines, a COVID patient can end their isolation 10 days after their first symptoms appeared if they've gone 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and are experiencing improvements to their other symptoms. However, there is one symptom that the CDC warns "may persist for weeks or months after recovery" and should not delay the end of isolation: a loss of taste and smell. Read on for more on this tell-tale COVID symptom, and for another coronavirus news update you need to know, check out Dr. Fauci Says These Are the COVID Symptoms That Don't Go Away.

A loss of taste and smell has been one of the most distinct symptoms of COVID.

Woman can't taste ice cream

A loss of taste and smell has become one of the most telling signs of COVID since it's not common with other illnesses like the flu or allergies. It's also incredibly prominent among patients. An Aug. 2020 study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that 38.2 percent of COVID patients lost their sense of taste and 41 percent lost their sense of smell. And for more ways to test this symptom, check out If You Can't Smell These 2 Things, You May Have COVID, Study Says.

It's also one of the most long-lasting COVID symptoms.

Man not eating upset because he lost his sense of taste

Most people regain their senses of smell and taste within a few weeks, but a significant portion will continue to have the symptoms for months. A January study from the Journal of Internal Medicine concluded that 15.3 percent of COVID patients had yet to recover their senses of taste and smell after 60 days, while 4.7 percent of people's senses had not returned at the six-month mark. And for another long-hauler symptom to be aware of, check out The Terrifying Long COVID Symptom Doctors Are Now Warning About.

Some survivors also report their sense of smell or taste being distorted.

Woman is disgusted by her sandwich
Vladimir Gjorgiev / Shutterstock

While many have reported a loss of taste and smell, others have described an alteration to these senses instead. A February report from Eater found that some individuals who recovered from COVID had a strong distaste for certain foods, like onions, which one patient described as "just horrific now."

In an interview with the BBC, COVID patients also described other drastic changes to their taste buds, stating that their "chicken pasta tasted like washing-up liquid" and that "coffee and toast is now repulsive … like a field just sprayed with manure." And for more on this strange effect, check out If Everything You Drink Smells Like This, You May Have COVID, Experts Say.

Experts say this symptom may never go away.

Senior woman tasting bitter coffee
Phuttharak / Shutterstock

There are still many questions about the long-term effects of COVID, but some medical professionals warn that it's possible individuals may lose their sense of taste and smell for good. Danielle Reed, associate director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, told The Wall Street Journal that "olfactory receptors that go to the brain—that are essentially like a highway to the brain—commit suicide so they can't carry the virus to the brain."

For COVID survivors who have not recovered their senses, some experts are suggesting smell training where an individual sniffs different scents to reignite their sense of smell. Research from the British nonprofit AbScent has shown that four scents in-particular—rose, lemon, eucalyptus, and clove—are helping to restore the sense of smell. Chemosensory scientist Pamela Dalton, PhD, suggested to Today that people smell each scent for 10 seconds with a "couple of slow, deep breaths." And for more COVID news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

And it could lead to depression.

Man has no appetite and/or taste buds
tommaso79 / iStock

Beyond being unpleasant and unfortunate, a loss of taste and smell can have a serious effect on one's mental state. A 2016 study published in the journal Chemical Senses found that "patients with olfactory dysfunction have symptoms of depression that worsen with severity of smell loss." And for more on how COVID continues to wreak havoc, check out Dr. Fauci Just Warned of These "Disturbing" Long COVID Symptoms.

Adriana Diaz
Adriana Diaz is a freelance writer based in Manhattan. Read more
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