This One COVID Symptom May Never Go Away, Doctors Warn

If you experience this symptom when you get COVID, be prepared for it to stick around.

The long list of COVID symptoms includes an alarmingly wide range of complications that can come with the virus. One of the most common symptoms among COVID patients, especially those with mild cases, is a loss of smell and taste. For some, these senses return in a couple of weeks, while others wait months before their senses reappear. In the worst case scenario, experts say, some COVID patients lose these senses for good. Keep reading for more on how coronavirus can kill your sense of smell and taste forever, and for more symptoms to be aware of, If You Have One of These Symptoms, the CDC Says Go to the Hospital Now.

Your sense of smell and taste may never come back after COVID.

Man not eating upset because he lost his sense of taste
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Losing your sense of smell and taste are common COVID symptoms. A Jan. 5 study from the Journal of Internal Medicine (JIM) found that 86 percent of patients with mild cases of COVID experienced a loss of their sense of taste and smell. And while a significant portion of these patients' senses end up coming back, The Wall Street Journal reports that doctors say some people's senses might never return.

On Harvard Health's site, cognitive and neurological expert Leo Newhouse, LICSW, writes, "Some of us might never regain our sense of smell or taste at all." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Most patients' senses of smell and taste come back after six months.

Woman trying to smell a cup of coffee
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An April 6 study published by the European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology found that the majority of patients' loss of taste and smell lingered long after other symptoms had dissipated. According to the study, at least a quarter of participants' ability to taste and smell returned within two weeks of their other symptoms disappearing.

The JIM study concluded that after 60 days, 15.3 percent of patients had yet to recover their senses, and at the 6-month mark, 4.7 percent of people's senses still hadn't come back. And for more symptoms to monitor, If You Have This Subtle Symptom, You Might Have Already Had COVID.

Even if your senses come back, they may not come back the same.

Woman can't taste ice cream
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"The good news is that olfactory neurons are capable of regeneration," Newhouse writes. "The bad news is that not everyone will return to his or her pre-COVID level of functioning."

If your senses are still gone, you shouldn't lose all hope. Experts say there's a significant chance that your senses will recover within the first year of loss. Assistant professor Jessica Grayson, MD, told the University of Alabama at Birmingham that "patients with post-viral smell loss have roughly a 60 to 80 percent chance of regaining some of their smell function at one year." And for another long-term complication of coronavirus, discover The Disturbing New Symptom of Long COVID Doctors Want You to Know.

Loss of smell and taste can lead to depression.

Man without taste eating cereal
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This common COVID symptom can have an even more detrimental effect than imagined. Experts say that losing your sense of smell and taste can lead to adverse emotions. A 2016 study published in Chemical Senses found that "patients with olfactory dysfunction have symptoms of depression that worsen with severity of smell loss."

Chemosensory scientist Pamela Dalton, PhD, told The Wall Street Journal that when our sense of smell and taste disappear, "we've scooped out a whole piece of our consciousness that we didn't even realize we were using every day." When people are unable to enjoy the food they crave or pick up on their partner's scent, it can lead to less serotonin, Dalton explains. And for even more symptoms you need to know, This Is the "Strongest, Most Consistent" Sign You Have COVID, Study Says.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Allie Hogan
Allie Hogan is a Brooklyn based writer currently working on her first novel. Read more
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