COVID-19 loss of taste and smell more likely to reverse in certain people

Most people who lose their sense of taste and/or smell as a result of COVID-19 will eventually regain both senses within the first few months of recovery. A new study analyzing survey data found that some people are more likely to regain these senses within that time period compared to others, however, and the major factor at play is age.

Youth is often a benefit when it comes to recovering from illnesses and COVID-19 is no exception. According to a survey of nearly 800 people who tested positive for COVID-19, those under the age of 40 were more likely to regain their sense of smell or taste compared to those who are older.

Of every five people who contracted COVID-19, four of them will regain their lost sense of smell and taste within the first six months of recovery. This new study looked into which patients are more likely to experience this reversal; the findings were based on responses from 798 surveyed adults ages 18 and older who had tested positive.

Beyond age, pre-existing conditions may also play a factor in whether someone gets their senses back within six months of recovery. For example, the researchers report that people who had histories of head injuries were less likely to get their sense of smell back within the first six months. As well, the study found that people who experienced shortness of breath as a result of COVID-19 were also less likely than other patients to recover their sense of smell.

However, the patients who experienced nasal congestion while ill were more likely to get their sense of smell back — and that's because some of them likely couldn't smell anything due to being so congested. Others, however, may lose their sense of smell or taste due to nerve damage caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. When extrapolated to the full population of people who have contracted COVID-19 around the world, around 20 million people may face loss of these senses beyond the first six months.