Are loss of taste and smell key symptoms of coronavirus?

New advice from the UK's chief medical officers states that loss of smell – anosmia – is now being treated as a symptom of coronavirus.

Is loss of taste and smell a key symptom of coronavirus?

Previous advice had suggested that loss of taste and smell were not key symptoms, but may be useful extra symptoms to look out for alongside a fever and cough.

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However, after reviewing this, the UK’s four chief medical officers have now said loss of smell is now being treated as an official symptom. Anyone who loses their sense of smell should now isolate, even if they don’t show any other symptoms.

Sense of taste is closely linked to sense of smell, so it’s likely that if you lose your sense of smell, your sense of taste will be affected too. However, it’s sense of smell that officials are saying you should watch out for.

The officers’ statement reads:

“From today, all individuals should self-isolate if they develop a new continuous cough or fever or anosmia.

Anosmia is the loss or a change in your normal sense of smell. It can also affect your sense of taste as the two are closely linked”.

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How common is loss of taste and smell among coronavirus sufferers? 

After hearing reports that some suspected coronavirus sufferers were experiencing loss of taste and smell, researchers at King's College London looked into the phenomenon by analysing responses on a Covid-19 symptom-reporting app.

The team examined symptoms from 400,000 users of the Covid Symptom Tracker app - an app which allows people to self-report on their symptoms.

Of the 400,000 people, 1,702 people said they'd been tested for coronavirus. 579 of these received a positive result, and 1,123 people received a negative one.

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Of those who tested positive, 59 per cent reported a loss of smell and taste.

Looking at all 400,000 respondents, 53 per cent reported fatigue or tiredness, 29 per cent a persistent cough, 28 per cent shortness of breath, 18 per cent loss of taste and smell and 10 per cent suffered from a fever.

How can I track my own symptoms? 

The Covid-19 Symptom Tracker app that researchers used to look into loss of taste and smell can be used by anyone to track their own symptoms.

It’s free, and the data you submit can help researchers to try and map the scale of infections across the UK as well as identify risk factors and common symptoms among sufferers.

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Even if you don’t have coronavirus symptoms currently, self-reporting every day can still help researchers build up a picture of coronavirus in the UK.

The researchers behind the app at King’s College have assured users that their data would be anonymised and that they could withdraw their records once the pandemic is over.

If you suspect you may have contracted coronavirus, you must immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days.

If you live with others, the others in your household must self-isolate for 14 days from when your symptoms began - this is because symptoms can take 14 days to appear.