Amid the growing Covid-19 scare is light at the end of the tunnel. If you experience true loss of smell and taste along with gastric trouble (read diarrhoea) as Covid-19 symptoms begin to appear, have heart as this generally means a good prognosis and no severe respiratory attack that normally sets in in the second week of the 14-day virus cycle.
Observed worldwide, the phenomenon has now been documented by Indian health experts -- as we enter the 10th month of Covid-19 pandemic -- and according to them, Covid-19 patients who show severe symptoms or end up in the ICU do not generally give a history of true loss of smell or taste.
Those who observe coronavirus-induced loss of smell and taste generally feel an overpowering salty or sweet taste, and water tastes extremely sweet. If they try perfume, the alcohol part dominates the olfactory senses sans any fragrance. And it takes 3-4 weeks for smell or taste or both to come back.
According to Dr. Arun Lakhanpal, chest physician, Interventional pulmonologist and Critical Care specialist, at Noida-based Yatharth Hospital, if true loss of smell and taste happens in the setting of Covid disease, which he is observing more often now, then it does indicate a good prognosis.
"It is being increasingly noticed that people with loss of smell and taste which happens in about 40 per cent patients is generally a good prognostic sign," said Dr. Lakhanpal, who and his team has helped thousands of Covid-19 patients recover and go back home healthy.
Dr. Sushila Kataria, Senior Director, Department of Internal Medicine, Medanta who is also leading the Covid team at Gurgaon-based Medanta, seconded Lakhanpal's observation.
"Yes, most patients who have loss of smell and taste in my observation do not get severe disease. They do not require oxygen support and most of them do not require hospitalisation," Kataria told IANS.
"So in a way I feel a loss of taste and smell sensation is a good sign. And that is kind of a prognostic factor that the patient will not deteriorate further".
The reason for a loss of smell and taste and diarrhoea in Covid disease is not really known.
"Sometimes the taste can go because there is a loss of smell as the two senses are linked. And it is said that the cause of it is the coronavirus infecting the cells around the nerves for smell and taste. This can recover within a week or even after the patient turning covid negative," Lakhanpal explained.
It may take three to four weeks to get your smell and taste back, but reassuringly, the condition is reversible.
One has to be aware that loss of smell and taste is not unique to coronavirus.
It can also happen in a number of conditions, such as rhinitis, sinusitis, brain tumours, with some medications and diarrhoea can happen with various infections of the chest or abdominal infections.
Another observation is that most of the people who have loss of smell and taste sensation are young.
"But I have also observed few elderly patients also complaining of this loss of sensation, and they're usually mild cases. If someone is experiencing sudden loss of taste and smell sensation, then they should isolate themselves. This is invariably Covid and as these patients may themselves be mildly symptomatic but they do have a potential to spread the infection," Kataria advised.
Do not take these symptoms lightly and isolate yourself, get tested for Covid-19 and follow all infection control practices.
Monitor your temperature with a thermometer in the mouth every four hours and oxygen levels with the help of a pulse oximeter and seek medical advice if there is fever or a drop in oxygen saturation.
"We are still learning about coronavirus and seeing newer and newer complications," said Lakhanpal.