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Some 27 million people worldwide could suffer long-lasting damage to their sense of smell or taste following COVID-19 infection, and women are particularly vulnerable, a new study reports.
“Our findings are likely to be of substantial relevance to general doctors and otolaryngologists in the counseling of patients with smell and taste disorders post-COVID-19,” according to the researchers, led by Song Tar Toh, from the department of otorhinolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Singapore General Hospital.
The findings were published online July 27 in the BMJ.
While most patients are expected to recover their sense of smell or taste within the first three months after an infection, “a major group of patients might develop long-lasting dysfunction that requires timely identification, personalized treatment, and long-term follow-up," the researchers said in a journal news release.
To see if those changes might persist in some, the team analyzed data from 18 observational studies involving nearly 3,700 patients.
Mathematical modeling led the researchers to estimate that smell loss might persist in about 5.6% of COVID-19 patients, while 4.4% might not recover their sense of taste.
By a month after initial infection, only 74% of patients had recovered their smell and 79% their taste, the researchers found. After six months, 96% had recovered smell and 98% had recovered taste.
Women were less likely to recover their sense of smell and taste than men, the data showed. In addition, people who had a greater severity of smell loss — or who suffered with nasal congestion during their infection — were less likely to recover their sense of smell.
SOURCE: BMJ, news release, July 27, 2022
By Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter
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