Why Does COVID-19 Cause a Loss of Smell?

January 31, 2024

COVID-19 has continued to affect our communities over the years, leading to a wide range of symptoms. When someone gets infected with COVID-19, one of the most prominent symptoms is the sudden loss of smell and taste that can last for weeks or even years. In this blog, we’ll explore the correlation between COVID-19 and the loss of smell, as well as outline when it might be necessary to seek medical attention.

For same-day COVID-19 testing and care, visit the walk-in clinic at AFC Urgent Care Cortez. Our board-certified medical providers are here to support your health and well-being seven days a week. You can simply walk-in or plan your visit in advance by scheduling an appointment online.

The Connection Between COVID-19 and a Loss of Smell

Contrary to public opinion, COVID-19 is evolving as scientists and doctors are still studying the individual symptoms this infection presents. One that proves to be a wonder is the sudden loss of smell upon infection. According to Dr. Timothy Smith, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Oregon Health & Science University, millions of people experienced loss of smell and only 80% of the affected population regained their sense of smell within one to three months. He further explained that we currently have 20% of the population unable to smell or taste after surviving the COVID-19 infection.

After spending years studying and treating patients who lost their sense of smell due to one or more viral infections, he categorized these symptoms into three:

  • Total loss or Anosmia
  • Partial loss or Hyposmia
  • Distorted loss of smell or Parosmia

It’s believed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus does not have a direct impact on the olfactory nerves. Rather, it affects supporting cells of the nerves. If the supporting cells that provide nutrients get affected, it is expected that the direct olfactory nerves will be affected. The SARS-CoV-2 virus also causes nasal congestion, preventing the small molecules of scent from getting into the narrow point where they can be sensed and interpreted by the brain.

How Does a Loss of Smell Affect People?

In certain people, these effects can be so severe that the damage to the olfactory lobe is almost permanent. As we all know, a lack of taste and smell can dull the people around you, making it difficult to enjoy food or partake in your regular day-to-day activities. Smelling also keeps us safe in many ways we take for granted. For instance, through smell, we get to know rotten food from fresh ones, and also get to know of an impending fire outbreak or gas leakage.

Treatment for a Loss of Smell

Medical treatments for smell loss or distortion are still being developed. Instead, patients are referred to smell training therapy, a relatively non-invasive and inexpensive treatment that requires a patient to smell different essential oils every day for at least 10 seconds. This therapy aims to stimulate the olfactory nerves to trigger the senses into smelling correctly. If you happen to have lost your sense of smell, or believe that you have been exposed to COVID-19, it’s important to seek prompt medical attention. You may be placed on certain medications that can help return your sense of smell or advised to try smell training therapy.

Get Walk-in COVID-19 Testing at AFC Urgent Care Cortez

If you are experiencing symptoms aligned with COVID-19, visit AFC Urgent Care Cortez for same-day testing. We can provide diagnostic testing for the active COVID-19 virus and examine your condition if a loss of smell or taste has developed. Don’t hesitate to get the care you need! Visit our urgent care center with no appointment necessary, seven days a week. We accept most health insurance plans and provide low-cost options for self-paying patients. If you have any additional questions about COVID-19 symptoms, or the services we provide, please contact our team directly at (970) 516-5500.

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