Researchers suggest that around 5% of adults infected with COVID-19 (there are at least 27 million cases worldwide) might lose their sense of smell or taste.
According to a study published in journal BMJ, nearly 6% of patients lose their sense of smell permanently, and more than 4% could never regain their sense of taste. After thirty days of being infected, 74% of patients have their sense of smell back and 79% can taste things again. After 180 days, those figures reached 96% and 98% respectively.
Researchers believe the actual number of arrests is more, say the authors.
According to an accompanying editorial by other scientists, the findings suggest that health systems might not be prepared to treat these patients.
Women are more Affected.
It was found that women may be particularly affected, as data shows they had a poorer recovery of smell and taste.
“In most patients, their sense of smell or taste should return within 3 months, but a substantial subpopulation may have long-lasting alterations,” write the authors. “These patients require timely identification, individualized treatment, and long-term care.”
This study might help doctors talk to their patients with smell and taste disorders following their COVID-19 infections.
Changes in the ability to smell or taste are common with COVID-19; about 40%-50% of people report these changes globally. Little is known about how long the effects last and who is more at risk.
They searched databases for studies involving adults with COVID-19-related changes to smell and taste and those that described factors associated with these changes and how long it took for people to recover.
In all, 18 studies that had a total of 3699 patients met the study criteria of those 18 studies, 14 were done in hospitals with patients.
Next, they used a method known as “cure modeling” to estimate self-reported rates of taste and smell recovery and identify factors affecting the length of the recovery.
As the authors write, the recovery rates increased each month, reaching a peak of 96% for smell and 98% for taste after 6 months.