UK lists anosmia as official COVID-19 symptom

May 19, 2020

Loss of smell and taste added to the UK's official list of coronavirus symptoms

A joint statement was shared today by the UK Chief Medical Officers, outlining the addition of a loss of taste and smell (anosmia) to the UK's official list of COVID-19 symptoms. This follows the likes of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization adding the symptoms to their official guidance.

Results from the COVID Symptom Study suggest that losing your sense of smell or taste may be a stronger predictor of coronavirus infection than fever. Anosmia can also affect your sense of taste as these two senses are very closely linked. Our findings, published in Nature Medicine, show that two thirds of users who tested positive for coronavirus infection reported this symptom in our app.

I have a fever, but haven’t lost my sense of smell - does this mean I don’t have COVID? 

We know people respond in different ways to coronavirus infection, which means that you may be infected with coronavirus without suffering any loss of smell or taste at all. Conversely, you can also lose your sense of smell when you suffer from the common cold and other respiratory infections.

Self-isolation guidelines remain largely unchanged in the UK with the addition of this symptom. The advice is to self-isolate immediately if you or anyone you live with has any (or a combination) of the following:

  • A new, continuous cough
  • Fever
  • Loss of smell or taste

Individuals who show symptoms must stay at home for 7 days, or longer if they still have symptoms other than a cough or loss of smell (these two symptoms can persist for weeks after the infection has gone). 

Those living with someone who shows any of these symptoms must also isolate, but for a total of 14 days after the symptoms started, in order to minimise the risk of passing the virus on to others.

Report your health daily, even if you are well

A new loss of smell or taste is just one of many COVID-19 symptoms that we are documenting in the COVID Symptom Study app. If you haven’t done so already, we encourage you to download the app and report how you are feeling daily, even if you are well, to help us better understand COVID-19 and stop the spread of the virus.

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