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COVID-19: The loss of smell often comes back

Older woman feeding avocado toast to spouse.

July 19, 2021— A common symptom of COVID-19 is the loss of smell. Now a new study gives hopeful news: Most people should recover their sense of smell within a year.

Finding the answer to key questions

When the pandemic started, the loss of smell—known as anosmia—was quickly identified as one of the signs of infection with the coronavirus. In fact, some people experience the loss of smell as their only COVID-19 symptom. Since this was a new symptom associated with a virus, no one knew how long people would lose their sense of smell or if it would ever return.

To help answer those questions, researchers tracked about 100 COVID-19 patients who had lost their sense of smell for more than seven days. Every four months, over the course of a year, a number of the participants completed a survey about their ability to smell, and their sense of smell was also tested. Other participants were in a group that completed the survey only.

The results: About 96% of the participants had their sense of smell back by 12 months. The researchers also found that some people were not fully aware of the gradual return of their sense of smell. The researchers believe this supports the need to both ask COVID-19 patients about their ability to smell and to test it.

The study was published in JAMA .

To learn more about COVID-19 symptoms, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Check out their list of symptoms, as well as information on when to seek emergency care.

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