COVID-19: Disturbed sense of smell usually begins on the third day

How our sense of smell can point to COVID-19

Loss of smell occurs in many people with COVID-19 on the third day of infection, according to a recent study. Most of those affected also experience a loss of taste. These symptoms should definitely be considered when people are unsure whether they have COVID-19.

The latest study by the University of Cincinnati found that most people with COVID-19 experienced a loss of smell on the third day of infection. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery".

103 sick people were examined for the study

The study examined characteristics and symptoms of 103 people diagnosed with COVID-19. These people were asked how many days they had COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, they were asked to describe the timing and severity of the loss or reduction in sense of smell along with other symptoms.

Over 61 percent of the participants had problems with their sense of smell

According to the researchers, at least 61 percent of the participants reported a reduced or lost sense of smell. The average onset of reduction or complete loss of smell was 3.4 days.

Severity of odor loss correlates with severity of COVID-19 symptoms

The study also found that the severity of the odor loss correlates with how bad other COVID-19 symptoms will appear. If the so-called anosmia (loss of smell) turns out to be worse, the patients also reported increased difficulty in breathing, higher fever and cough.

Decreased sense of smell indicates stage of the disease

The relationship between the reduced sense of smell and COVID-19 provides information about the stage of the disease in which the person is. If people with COVID-19 have a reduced sense of smell, this shows that they are within the first week of the course of the disease and the disease persists for a week or two, the researchers at the University of Cincinnati explain in a press release.

Decreased sense of smell could become an important indicator

An experimental antiviral drug (Remedesivir) to treat Ebola could also be promising for the treatment of COVID-19. Available antiviral treatment for COVID-19 could mean that it is much more important to have an indicator of the onset, prognosis, and progress of the disease in the sick, the research group added. Antiviral drugs have worked best in the past when given early during a viral infection. This also seems to apply to Remedesivir.

Remedesivir for emergency treatment of severe COVID-19 cases

The drug has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency treatment of critically ill COVID-19 patients, as a clinical study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health has shown that people who take Remmdesivir have a disease compared to a placebo when they take it experienced shorter recovery time.

Loss of smell indicates potential candidates for remedesivir

The loss of sense of smell can indicate which people develop more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath later. As soon as Remedesivir becomes available, a reduced sense of smell can identify people who would be preferred candidates for the drug, the researchers explain.

These symptoms also indicate COVID-19

Loss of smell is an indicator of COVID-19, but it is not the only factor. Symptoms such as shortness of breath and shortness of breath should also be considered. The study also found that the likelihood of odor loss is increased in younger people and women.

Do not confuse these COVID-19 symptoms with an allergy!

In addition, about 50 percent of the participants had a stuffy nose and 35 percent had a runny nose. The researchers believe this is important because previous studies indicated that these nasal symptoms would rarely occur with COVID-19 and that these symptoms were due to an allergy and not to the novel coronavirus.

Paying attention to nasal symptoms can prevent illness of others

According to the research group, greater awareness of the nasal symptoms of COVID-19 is required so that people do not run around in public and sneeze and assume that everything is fine with them because they are only allergies. It could very well be COVID-19 and wearing a mask to protect other people would be appropriate in such a case. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Ahmad R. Sedaghat, Isabelle Gengler, Marlene M. Speth: Olfactory Dysfunction: A Highly Prevalent Symptom of COVID-19 With Public Health Significance, in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (Published May 5, 2020), Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
  • By the third day, most with COVID-19 lose sense of smell, University of Cincinnati (Published May 7, 2020), University of Cincinnati

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