As one of the stranger symptoms of COVID, losing your sense of smell or taste can be a dead giveaway that you’ve contracted the virus. In fact, a recent article in The New York Times reported that up to 87 percent of patients experience this surprising symptom. And, according to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in roughly 25 percent of people diagnosed with coronavirus, it’s the first and only sign that something is amiss. Knowing that this symptom—medically referred to as anosmia—can serve as a key indicator for diagnosis, one study set out to find particular smells could serve as bellwethers for a COVID-positive test. Because the study originated in India, the researchers chose five scents that were often available in Indian households. They found that people who had difficulty smelling peppermint and coconut oil were most likely to later test positive for coronavirus. Read on for more details, and for additional information on this symptom, check out There’s an 80 Percent Chance You Have COVID If You Have This Symptom.
In total, the research team screened 25 odorants, ultimately choosing five to use for the experiment that participants were most familiar with: coconut oil, cardamom, fennel, peppermint, and garlic. They then graded the scents based on potency and familiarity, and developed a prototype testing kit, which people could easily recreate at home.
Ultimately, they found olfactory deficits in roughly 50 percent of otherwise asymptomatic COVID-positive patients. Of the five scents, peppermint and coconut oil were most frequently misidentified or undetectable to those with coronavirus: 36.7 percent and 22.4 percent of patients misidentified peppermint and coconut oil respectively. Similarly, the greatest number of patients were unable to smell those two scents entirely: 24.5 percent of patients could not smell peppermint and 20.4 percent could not smell the coconut oil.
There are a few reasons that people can lose their olfactory senses due to COVID. First, people with upper respiratory conditions often experience “congestion, drainage, and other nasal symptoms,” which can block access to the smell nerve. But more likely, according to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, “the virus causes an inflammatory reaction inside the nose that can lead to a loss of the olfactory, or smell, neurons.”
Either way, smell tests like these can offer a window into a person’s COVID diagnosis. As the researchers noted in their study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, at-home tests could have a huge impact on global efforts to screen for coronavirus. “Given the non-availability/expensive nature of testing kits, this test may enable us to perform rapid and wider testing,” the researchers wrote. “In addition to this, the test has a potential to be one of the preliminary scanning methods along with infrared thermometry at the entry points of hospitals, government and private offices, shops and other places of public dealing in order to have a safe cordon.” In other words, it’s not a…
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