Loss of Smell May Not Happen Right Away. What We Know About the COVID Symptom – NBC Chicago

Loss of Smell May Not Happen Right Away. What We Know About the COVID Symptom – NBC Chicago

While it seemed that loss of smell may have faded from the most common symptoms associated with the virus, health experts say it’s still being seen in many infections – and for some, it may not hit right away.

Chicago’s top doctor said the city continues to see a “wide range of symptoms,” including loss of taste and smell.

The symptom was thought to be less common in earlier iterations of omicron, but appeared to rise in frequency with some BA.5 cases, which continues to dominate cases even as newer versions of the virus emerge. The symptoms was particularly prominent during earlier waves prior to the omicron variant.

“There are some indications, for example, with omicron that the loss of taste and smell is less common than it was with some of the earlier lineages. All of this is also impacted probably by the fact that many more people are vaccinated than they were before,” Dr. Isaac Ghinai, a medical director for the Chicago Department of Public Health who oversees COVID-19 testing and laboratory surveillance, said last month.

Still, some who contract the virus are still experiencing loss of taste and smell, sometimes not until well into their infection.

Brennan Biasotti, of Chicago, said he first started experiencing symptoms last Friday. But it wasn’t until Tuesday morning that he quickly realized something changed.

He licked a hot pepper and was unable to taste or smell anything, only recognizing the level of spice.

“There is no joy in eating,” he told Breaking News Of World. “It’s hard to tell if I’m hungry because I know I won’t be able to taste anything. Also I have absolutely zero urge to cook anything because I know I won’t taste it.”

And he’s not alone.

In July, Elizabeth Simins told NBC News she experienced symptoms for roughly a week before the sudden loss of her senses.

The symptom continues to be listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a common sign of COVID.

Here’s what we know so far:

How long could loss of smell or taste last?

The short answer is: it is not clear.

Some health experts say senses could return within days to a month or two. Others, however, say it could take more than a year and lingering affects may continue well beyond that.

A study cited by the CDC found that the median time for symptoms to resolve after a positive COVID test is between four and eight days, but for loss of smell, the average time is between eight and 10.5 days. For taste, it was between four and 10 days.

Still, the symptoms are also listed among the common long-COVID symptoms, with some reporting losing their senses for months following infection.

Dr. Lora Bankova, an allergist and immunologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told NBC News many will recover their senses within three months, though for some, it can last over a year.

In some cases, people may experience a loss of smell entirely, or a change in their smell.

Why do people lose their sense of taste or smell?

While the symptoms have been associated with COVID during the pandemic so far, they can also happen with other respiratory illnesses.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “some viruses damage olfactory sensory neurons, nerves that help you smell.”

“One study suggests the [COVID] virus doesn’t directly damage olfactory sensory neurons,” the clinic’s website states. “Instead, it may affect cells that support these neurons. Once the infection goes away, the olfactory nerve starts working properly again.”

In a study published earlier this year by the journal Nature Genetics, researchers found a genetic risk factor could be behind why some experience the symptoms while other do not.

They also noted that women in the study were more likely to experience loss of smell or taste than men. Meanwhile, adults between the ages of 26 and 35 also reported higher incidents.

When might you lose your senses if you have COVID?

Though some, particularly those who contracted COVID earlier in the pandemic, reported experiencing the loss of senses early on in their infection, others have reported experiencing the symptoms well into their infection.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, early symptoms of COVID-19 typically include fatigue, headache, sore throat or a fever. Some patients also experience a loss of taste or smell as an early or their first symptom.

A study by researchers at the University of Southern California found fever may be first, as well as two other symptoms. It found the initial symptoms of COVID-19 are most likely a fever, followed by a cough and muscle pain. Then, those infected will likely experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Unlike other respiratory illnesses such as MERS and SARS, COVID-19 patients will likely develop nausea and vomiting before diarrhea, the researchers found.

What are other symptoms of COVID?

According to the CDC, symptoms of the virus include:

-Fever or chills


-Shortness of breath


-Muscle or body aches


-New loss of taste or smell

-Sore throat

-Congestion or runny nose

-Nausea or vomiting


Patients are urged to seek emergency medical attention if they experience:

-Trouble breathing

-Persistent chest pain or pressure

-New confusion

-Inability to wake or stay awake

-Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds

Still, many other symptoms are also associated with the virus. The CDC notes the list is not exhaustive.

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