Millions Still Grapple with Loss of Taste and Smell After COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth a myriad of symptoms, some more peculiar than others. Among them, the loss of taste and smell stood out as a unique and unsettling experience. While these symptoms were initially dismissed as temporary, emerging research indicates that a significant portion of COVID-19 survivors continue to grapple with these sensory challenges. A recent study published in The Laryngoscope sheds light on the long-term effects, revealing the impact on individuals’ daily lives and the potential implications for public health.

Persisting Symptoms:

According to the study, approximately 60% of the tens of millions of Americans infected with COVID-19 in 2021 reported partial or complete loss of taste and/or smell. Although the majority eventually recovered their senses after the acute phase of infection, almost a quarter of individuals had not fully regained their ability to taste or smell by the end of that year. Shockingly, over 3% of participants did not recover any sense of taste or smell at all.

The Scope of the Issue:

Extrapolating from the data, researchers estimate that nearly two-thirds of Americans infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic have experienced partial or complete loss of taste and/or smell. While the majority have recovered, it is estimated that around 28 million Americans continue to endure these persistent symptoms, impacting their daily lives and overall well-being.

Impact on Quality of Life:

The loss of taste and smell may seem like minor inconveniences, but their consequences run deeper than expected. Dr. Neil Bhattacharyya, a professor of otolaryngology at Mass Eye Ear and co-author of the study, highlights that the inability to fully enjoy food can lead to decreased eating for pleasure, which, in severe cases, can result in depression and weight loss. The diminished sensory experience also poses potential dangers, as affected individuals may struggle to detect noxious smells, such as smoke or rotten food. Furthermore, professionals in the culinary industry, like chefs and sommeliers, face significant challenges in their work due to these disabilities.

The Neglected Group:

Unfortunately, there is currently no standard treatment available for individuals grappling with the dampened or absent senses of taste and smell. Bhattacharyya emphasizes that this group of patients has been somewhat neglected, as their symptoms are often overlooked or underestimated. The study underscores the importance of preventive measures, such as COVID-19 vaccination and antiviral treatments like Paxlovid, which have the potential to mitigate the severity of symptoms.

Evolution of Symptoms:

Encouragingly, recent reports from the Harvard and Stanford universities-backed Zoe Health Study suggest that loss of taste and smell is no longer as prevalent among COVID-19 patients. As the virus has evolved, its symptoms have also undergone changes, offering hope to those who have yet to be affected by these sensory challenges.


The lingering loss of taste and smell among COVID-19 survivors highlights the long-term impact of the virus on individuals’ lives. The study serves as a reminder that while the majority may recover their senses, a substantial number of people continue to endure these symptoms, which affect their quality of life and pose potential risks. The findings underscore the importance of ongoing research, improved support for affected individuals, and the need for preventive measures to minimize the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.