Researchers have found an easy way to tell if your loss of smell is due to coronavirus or the common cold

Wednesday, 19th August 2020, 12:54 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th August 2020, 12:54 pm
Loss of smell can be a symptom of both coronavirus and the common cold (Photo: Shutterstock)
Loss of smell can be a symptom of both coronavirus and the common cold (Photo: Shutterstock)

Loss of smell and taste are key symptoms of coronavirus - but the same symptoms can also be attributed to cases of the common cold.

This has led some to panic in recent weeks, with people believing they have contracted coronavirus when they're really suffering from a cold.

Luckily, scientists have now figured out an easy way to tell if your loss of smell and taste is indicative of coronavirus or not.

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Bitter and sweet scents are key

Researchers, from the University of East Anglia, have found that those patients with Covid-19 related loss of smell don't have a stuffy, blocked or runny nose - unlike those with the common cold.

In addition to this, they found that people with coronavirus-related loss of smell could no longer tell the difference between bitter and sweet scents and flavours, while those with the cold could.

The tests involved 30 participants (10 with coronavirus, 10 with colds and 10 healthy people) who were asked to undertake smell and taste tests. The results showed that smell loss was more serious in Covid-19 patients, who also had difficulty telling the difference between sweet and bitter tastes.

If in doubt, get a coronavirus test

Professor Carl Philpott, who led the study, told the BBC, “There really do appear to be distinguishing features that set the coronavirus apart from other respiratory viruses.

"This is very exciting because it means that smell and taste tests could be used to discriminate between Covid-19 patients and people with a regular cold or flu.”

The professor suggested that anyone who was worried about smell or taste loss and carrying out their own tests at home should use strong flavours like garlic, coffee or lemons. He stressed, however, that these tests were not a replacement for getting a coronavirus test, which can be conducted at home or at centres.

Loss of taste and smell in coronavirus sufferers is also often accompanied by some of the other common symptoms of the virus, such as a fever and cough.