BBC Breakfast: Claire Hopkins discusses loss of smell
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Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London, who is leading the ZOE symptom app’s Covid study, is calling for the Government to update its coronavirus symptom list to reflect the symptoms of Omicron. Currently, the official list of coronavirus symptoms do not reflect the changing symptoms of the virus as it mutates, so you may have symptoms without knowing it. Express.co.uk reveals the rotten symptom that could be Omicron.
The Omicron variant of coronavirus became the dominant strain in December 2021 and continues to be the most infectious variant today.
The ZOE COVID Study app took health reports from contributors reporting positive cases at this time and compared them with data from early October when Delta was the dominant variant.
Even though the Government still says the top three symptoms of Covid are a new continuous cough, a high temperature and a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), this isn’t the case right now.
This analysis found no clear difference in the symptom profile of Delta and Omicron, with only 50 percent of people experiencing the classic three symptoms of fever, cough, or loss of sense of smell or taste.
The top 5 symptoms for both Omicron and Delta in both periods studied by ZOE were:
- Runny nose
- Fatigue (mild or severe)
- Sore throat
Loss or change in sense of taste and smell was in the top 10 symptoms early on in 2021, but now it’s much less common.
Nonetheless, a significant one in five people still experience the frustrating symptom.
The team at ZOE explained: “A loss or change to your sense of taste or smell means that people who have coronavirus tend not to be able to smell or taste anything properly, or things will smell or taste slightly different to normal.”
Smell and taste disorder charity Fifth Sense says that 25,000 UK adults have been affected by a loss of sense of smell or taste.
Even though fewer people are experiencing symptoms related to smell or taste, it’s still a possible symptom of Omicron to watch out for.
Many scientists agree that coronavirus uses the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor to gain entry to cells by binding with spike protein.
This receptor is found on the support cells that, along with olfactory neurons, make up the olfactory epithelium. That’s why the illness causes problems with smell.
The virus doesn’t seem to directly impact the taste, but smell and taste are closely linked because they both use the same types of receptors.
Also, the nose and mouth are connected through the same airway so you smell and taste food at the same time.
Did you know that 90 percent of what is perceived as taste is actually smell? That’s why you might experience issues with smell and taste as a result of coronavirus.
Normally smell and taste disappear suddenly and then they become distorted and people develop parosmia and phantosmia during recovery.
Smell and taste disorders charity Fifth Sense explained: “Parosmia is the medical term for experiencing distortions of the sense of smell.
“Someone with parosmia may be able to detect odours, but the smell of certain things – or sometimes everything – is different and often unpleasant.
“These unpleasant smells are often described as being like chemicals, burning, faeces, rotting flesh or mould.
“For some people, they appear in response to specific odours and for others, they can be triggered by virtually any smell.
“Parosmia can range from mild to severe and can be an incredibly debilitating and depressing experience for sufferers.
“We’ve heard from people who have said that their experience of parosmia was far worse than their initial loss of smell.”
Or, you might have phantosmia (olfactory hallucinations) where normal smells appear in the absence of odour.
For example, you might be able to smell garlic when there is no garlic present.
In most people, recovery has been relatively fast which indicates that the virus does not always kill the olfactory neurons.
The charity explained: “Because sudden smell loss occurs early in the disease or without any other symptoms, a full understanding of the virus’ entry into cells in the olfactory sensory epithelium is particularly important for further understanding the infection.”
Don’t panic, early research indicates that more than 80 percent of people who have issues with their smell achieve a full recovery.
The charity’s advice concluded: “Just like other post-infection smell loss, these support cells can regenerate and the olfactory epithelium can recover.”
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