Temporal Profile of Olfactory Dysfunction in COVID-19

Patricia A. Loftus, Lauren T. Roland, Jose G. Gurrola, Steven W. Cheung, Jolie L. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is associated with olfactory dysfunction, but the evolution of the olfactory loss and timeline to recovery are largely unknown. This study examines changes in smell sensitivity in COVID-19–positive (COVID+) and COVID-19–negative (COVID–) viral illness during the initial weeks after infection. Study Design: Cross-sectional cohort comparison. Setting: National anonymous surveys. Methods: Survey participants were queried about smell sensitivity and general health status at the time of COVID-19 testing and in the weeks that followed. Results: In total, 375 (174 COVID+, 201 COVID–) participants completed the survey and 132 (62 COVID+, 70 COVID–) participants completed the 2-week follow-up survey. Normal smell in the COVID+ cohort was less frequent at the time of testing and at follow up (P <.05). Dynamic changes in smell sensitivity in the COVID+ cohort were more frequent in the initial weeks (P <.001). In those with normosmia at the start of infection, 38% of the COVID+ cohort reported worsening smell compared to only 8% in the COVID– cohort (P <.05). Recovery of overall health was associated with normosmia at the time of infection and improvement of smell sensitivity within weeks of infection. Conclusion: The COVID+ cohort showed greater dynamic change in smell sensitivity and a higher rate of persistent olfactory dysfunction in the weeks after infection. Normal smell at the time of COVID-19 infection may still worsen before recovery. Overall health recovery after viral illness is associated with improvement in smell sensitivity and the absence of initial anosmia or hyposmia.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOTO Open
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • COVID-19
  • olfaction
  • recovery
  • smell


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