VCU doctors seeking COVID-19 patients from Hampton Roads to participate in survey studying loss of smell, taste


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — As we’ve reported, some COVID-19 patients experience symptoms of months after their diagnosis, including a loss of taste and smell. A team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond is working to learn more about why these changes happen and how long they typically impact people.

Researchers are hoping people in the Hampton Roads area will participate in their survey, so can they continue to learn more.

The good news is that their research shows that four out of five people will get their sense of taste and smell back within six months of getting COVID-19. However, that depends on a number of factors.

Loss of taste and smell is one of the most frustrating symptoms of COVID-19.

“We don’t usually think of the sense of smell, but it does affect our daily life,” said Dr. Richard Costanzo, who is the research director at VCU’s Smell and Taste Disorders Center.

It’s not just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous.

“Imagine you can’t smell a gas leak, or you leave something on the stove and it catches fire,” said Costanzo. “We want to know what the long-term outcomes are. One thing we learned is that most people, about 80%, will recover their sense of smell after the COVID symptoms within two, three, four weeks. But, there are some other cases where we are seeing long-term effects.”

That leaves roughly 20% of people who will not get their taste or smell back.

Costanzo says there are a few similar threads they see. One is age.

“Well the reality is, as you get older, it’s more difficult to recover from any injury, so we think this is just, you know, what we’re seeing. Healthy, young people do better than older people who might have co-morbidities or other complications,” he said.

That could include head trauma.

“People that have had a previous head injury are more likely to be in this category where smell is not recovering,” Costanzo said.

The doctors are also working on a device, similar to a cochlear implant, that will help people smell again.

Roughly 3,000 people have participated in the study so far. They are looking for more to anonymously participate, especially as the Delta variant continues to spread. Click here to participate.

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