This is the most common early sign of COVID-19

Before COVID-19 tests were made readily available, health systems relied on self reporting to diagnose early cases of the disease. 

Unfortunately the pandemic developed in the middle of flu and allergy season, leaving many sick Americans unsure of how to distinguish their symptoms. 

“COVID-19 is not associated with the symptoms that are typically associated with a viral cold such as nasal blockage or mucus production,” explained Dr. Sedaghat, an associate professor in the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, in a release. “This distinction is also why it is fairly easy to distinguish COVID-19 from seasonal allergies.”

Dr. Sedaghat is one of the researchers behind a new study published in the journal Investigative Otolaryngology.

According to the new paper, loss of smell is a reliable early indicator of SARS-Cov-2 infection. 

Supportive care and contact-tracing

Neuropathies associated with COVID-19 were initially thought to be rare, but as the pandemic progressed experts began to observe punitive effects on the nervous system.

Some of the patients analyzed in Wuhan, China occasioned stroke-like symptoms, including trembling and numbness. 

Similarly, a growing number of recovering patients in the United States experienced a tingling fizz sensation after their fevers began to subside.

Of all the symptoms recorded, loss of smell is one the most benign. However, being able to identify early warning signs of contraction allows patients to receive supportive care and reduces the urgency for testing in every suspected COVID-19 case.

“A sudden loss of one’s sense of smell wouldn’t trigger most people to think they have COVID-19,” Dr. Sedaghat continued. “These individuals could continue business as usual and spread the disease as a carrier. The guidelines for when to formally test for COVID-19 remain fluid in the setting of limited tests. But if someone experiences anosmia without nasal obstruction, aside from quarantining, it would not be unreasonable to reach out to one’s primary care physician about getting tested.”

In Dr. Sedaghat’s meta-analysis of 19 previously conducted studies, sinus and nasal complications were cited by patients with the most frequency. In one study in particular of 55 participants, 94% of  the study pool who said that they lost their sense of smell tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Although the pathogen impacts lung cells the most aggressively, SARS-Cov-2 is actually produced in a carrier’s nasal lining which might explain ensuing olfactory prodromes. 

There will always be outliers but generally speaking the most common COVID-19 symptoms are a high fever, tiredness, dry cough, and labored breathing 

Unlike most seasonal allergies, COVID-19 rarely results in frequent sneezing and flem production. 

Fatigue, body aches, sore throat and itchy eyes are symptoms shared between allergies, the flu and the novel coronavirus but only the latter results in shortness of breath and a persistent dry cough. 

“COVID-19 is associated with a fairly unique combination of nasal symptoms: a sudden loss of one’s sense of smell, also known as ‘anosmia,’ without nasal obstruction,”Dr. Sedaghat concluded. “The occurrence of sudden onset anosmia without nasal obstruction is highly predictive of COVID-19 and should trigger the individual to immediately self-quarantine with presumptive COVID-19.”