Health

Coronavirus: Are loss of smell and taste key symptoms?


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A loss of smell or taste may be a sign that you have coronavirus, according to UK researchers.

A team at King’s College London looked at responses from more than 400,000 people reporting suspected Covid-19 symptoms to an app.

But loss of smell and taste are also signs of other respiratory infections, such as the common cold.

And experts say fever and cough remain the most important symptoms of the virus to look out for and act upon.

If you or someone you live with has a new continuous cough or high temperature, the advice is stay at home to stop the risk of spreading coronavirus to others.

Coronavirus: What should I do?

What did the study find?

The King’s College researchers wanted to gather information on possible coronavirus symptoms to help experts better understand and fight the disease.

Of those reporting one or more symptoms of coronavirus to the Covid Symptom Tracker app:

  • 53% said they had fatigue or tiredness
  • 29% persistent cough
  • 28% shortness of breath
  • 18% loss of sense of smell or taste
  • 10.5% suffered from fever

Of these 400,000 people, 1,702 said they had been tested for Covid-19, with 579 receiving a positive result and 1,123 a negative one.

Among the ones who had coronavirus infection confirmed by a positive test, three-fifths (59%) reported loss of smell or taste.

Should loss of smell and taste be added to the key symptoms to watch out for?

Experts say there’s not enough evidence yet.

Public Health England and the World Health Organization have not added them to the list.

ENT UK, the body that represents Ear, Nose and Throat doctors, says it is not surprising that some patients with coronavirus might report these as symptoms, but they are not specific to Covid-19.

The King’s researchers say loss of smell and taste might be useful extra symptoms to watch for, perhaps not on their own but alongside other important ones like cough and fever.

Lead researcher Prof Tim Spector said: “When combined with other symptoms, people with loss of smell and taste appear to be three times more likely to have contracted Covid-19 according to our data, and should therefore self-isolate for seven days to reduce the spread of the disease.”



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