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Study reveals how loss of smell and taste in covid-19 differs from what you experience with the common cold

Published on:19 August 2020, 13:52pm IST
Can’t taste your favourite pizza? Well, before you panic and think that you are shot down by covid-19 read what this recent report has to say.
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Covid-19 or severe cold? What your symptoms actually mean. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Covid-19 comes with a bucket full of symptoms which also happen to be very common in the monsoon season. These days, even a sneeze or a minor cough makes you wonder if it is covid-19 related or not. This is also the case with a very talked-about symptom of coronavirus i.e. loss of smell and taste. But before you turn on your panic mode read what this new study has to say.

According to findings published in the journal Rhinology, patients who are suffering from a severe cold can also have symptoms like loss of smell, heavy breathing, and runny or blocked nose. These people might not be able to detect bitter or sweet tastes. So, that means if you can’t taste your favourite food these days, then covid-19 is not the only cause.

Loss of smell and taste differs in SARS- CoV-2
This study is the first to compare how people with covid-19 smell and taste disorders differ from those with other causes of upper respiratory tract infections, according to the researchers, including those from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK.

The researchers hope that their work could help develop smell and taste tests for fast covid-19 screening–in primary care and emergency departments.

“The loss of smell and taste is a prominent symptom of covid-19, however it is also a common symptom of having a bad cold,” said lead researcher Carl Philpott, a professor at UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

Symptoms of covid-19 might alleviate.

“We wanted to find out exactly what differentiates COVID -19 smell loss with the kind of smell loss you might have with a cold and blocked-up nose,” Philpott said.

The research team carried out smell and taste tests on 10 covid-19 patients, 10 people with bad colds and a control group of 10 healthy people—all matched for age and sex.

“We wanted to see if their smell and taste test scores could help discriminate between covid-19 patients and those with a heavy cold,” Philpott said.

The result? Patients of covid-19 behave differently than those with other respiratory viruses. The researchers found that smell loss was much more profound in the coronavirus patients, and they were less able to identify smells, and were not able to identify bitter or sweet tastes.

Proper screening is the only way to detect the presence of covid-19 virus
“This is very exciting because it means that smell and taste tests could be used to discriminate between covid-19 patients and people with a regular cold or flu,” Philpott said.

covid-19
Sneezing, congestion, and runny nose are all symptoms of covid-19 according to the CDC. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“Although such tests could not replace formal diagnostic tools such as throat swabs, they could provide an alternative when conventional tests are not available or when rapid screening is needed—particularly at the level of primary care, in emergency departments or at airports,” he added.

The study also shows that there are altogether different things going on when it comes to smell and taste loss for covid-19 patients, compared to those with a bad cold, the researchers concluded.

So, before concluding and announcing that you have covid-19. Visit your doctor and certify this fact as it can just be cold.

(With inputs from PTI)

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