Olfactory dysfunction (OD)-hyposmia or anosmia-is a symptom of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). We sought to better determine prevalence, severity, and timing of OD in COVID-19 relative to other sinonasal and pulmonary symptoms.
In total, 103 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 with reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)-based testing.
All patients testing positive for COVID-19 at Kantonsspital Aarau over a 6-week period were approached. Timing and severity (at its worst, on scale of 0 [none], 1 [mild], 2 [moderate], and 3 [severe]) of OD, loss of taste, nasal obstruction, rhinorrhea/mucus production, fever, cough and shortness of breath (SOB) were assessed for each patient.
Prevalence of OD was 61.2%, and severity of OD was strongly correlated with severity of loss of taste experienced (ρ = 0.87, P < .001). OD was experienced on the first day of COVID-19 by 8.7% and overall occurred at median infection day 3 (mean, 3.4; range, 0-12). Most experiencing OD reported anosmia, and mean severity of all with OD was moderate to severe (mean [SD], 2.7 [0.6]). Nasal obstruction (49.5%) and rhinorrhea (35.0%) were frequently reported but not correlated with OD. SOB was more severe in patients with OD. OD was associated negatively with older age (OR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.93-0.99; P = .007) and positively with female sex (OR, 2.46; 95% CI, 0.98-6.19; P = .056).
OD is highly prevalent during COVID-19, occurring early and severely, often in conjunction with loss of taste. OD is associated negatively with older age and positively with female sex. Patients with OD may also experience more severe SOB.