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This One Symptom Might Mean You Already Had COVID

If you lose your sense of taste or smell, you may have had COVID.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Until we've achieved herd immunity, or unless you've been vaccinated, no one should consider themselves fully safe from catching the coronavirus. Even if you've had it before. However, you might be curious to know if you have been previously infected and perhaps not known it. While that's entirely possible—about 40% cases are asymptomatic, as in, they present no symptoms—there is one "telltale" symptom that signals you may have had COVID. Read on to discover what it is, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

A Loss of Taste and Smell Signals COVID-19

While absolutely brutal for some people, COVID-19 can seem similar to a mild flu for others, with a few key differences. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke during a discussion sponsored by Columbia University. He explained that the "clinical manifestations" of the virus, aka the "presenting signs and symptoms" are "strikingly similar to what we have been calling a flu-like syndrome. They include those outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common being 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 one other that is uncommon with other ailments."

"Of particular interest is the rather frequent occurrence of loss of smell and taste, which precedes the onset of respiratory symptoms," he revealed. Although this symptom can present itself due to other viruses, or perhaps a neurological issue, if it strikes you during the pandemic, there's a good chance you have COVID. If it happened to you sometime this past year, you may have already had COVID.

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This Loss of Senses is Likely Because COVID-19 Attacks the Nose

So how could COVID-19 cause you to lose your sense of smell (an issue called anosmia) or lose your sense of taste (called ageusia)? "We have been researching this data for less than a year. Still, so far, it suggests that the primary attack of the coronavirus is in the nose, in the nasal epithelium, which is the skinlike layer of cells in charge of expressing odors," Dr. Leo Nissola tells Eat This, Not That! Health. "It seems like the virus assaults support cells and stem cells in the nose, but not neurons directly, which does not mean that neurons cannot be affected. These cells maintain the balance and signal the brain. In some patients, when infected with COVID, that balance is disrupted, and that leads to a shutdown of neuronal signaling, and therefore of smell. The cells also provide support to sustain the cilia on the nose where receptors that detect odors are located. If the virus disrupts those cilia, you lose the ability to smell."

"The loss of taste was more pronounced in sweet and salty intensity ratings," says one study. This inability may last a few days, or a few weeks—in some rare cases, it may never come back.

RELATED: 7 Tips You Must Follow to Avoid COVID, Say Doctors

What to Do if You Lose Your Sense of Taste or Smell

"If any of those symptoms appear, people should be careful and either stay home, try to get tested if you possibly can to know whether or not you're infected. And if you are, obviously you should isolate yourself," says Dr. Fauci. "If you get into some difficulty, you should notify your physician. But the best thing to do is stay home. So if someone comes in and says, you know, I kind of feel bushed today. I'm tired. I got this little scratchy feeling in my throat. I feel a little achy." Or maybe you can't smell anything? "That's a telltale sign." 

So seek care if it happens to you—or, if it happened to you, consider an antibody test to confirm that you had COVID-19. And follow Dr. Fauci's fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene and to protect your life and the lives of others, and don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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