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Nearly 50% of COVID-19 Patients Have This Symptom—Do You?

Two new studies show one issue is more common than previously thought.

You've heard that COVID-19 causes shortness of breath and a fever, but one other symptom appears in a whopping 50% of the people who test positive, suggests a new study.

"Nearly half of individuals who contract COVID-19 experience changes in their sense of taste, a new analysis led by a University of Toledo researcher has found," reports News Medical Life Sciences. "The systematic review, published in the journal Gastroenterology, could provide yet another diagnostic hint for clinicians who suspect their patients might have the disease."

The Number Might be Higher Than 50%

Although the new change in taste and smell has been widely reported—in fact they are both on the CDC's official list of symptoms—what's news is that they are so widespread. "Earlier studies didn't note this symptom, and that was probably because of the severity of other symptoms like cough, fever and trouble breathing," said Dr. Muhammad Aziz, chief internal medicine resident at UToledo and the paper's lead author. "We were beginning to note that altered or lost sense of taste were also present, not just here and there, but in a significant proportion."

According to the University, the number could be even higher than 50%. "Aziz and his research collaborators analyzed data from five studies conducted between mid-January and the end of March. Of the 817 patients studied, 49.8% experienced changes to their sense of taste. Researchers suspect the true prevalence could be even higher because some of the studies were based on reviews of patient charts, which may not have noted every symptom."

Another study backs this up. In a study of 2013 COVID-19 patients, "loss of smell and headache were the most prevalent symptoms. A total of 1,754 patients (87%) reported loss of smell, whereas 1,136 (56%) reported taste dysfunction," the authors reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. "These findings highlight the importance of considering loss of smell and taste in the diagnosis of mild to moderate COVID-19," they added.

Aziz, for one, believes loss of taste should be a part of every screening test. "Not just for suspected COIVD patients, but also for the general population to identify healthy carriers of the virus," he said.

What to Do If You Lose Your Sense of Taste

If you suddenly lose your sense of taste or smell, it may be time to get tested for COVID-19. Call your medical professional, and also ask yourself if you have another of these additional coronavirus symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
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