No Taste or Smell? Possible Causes Other Than COVID

No Taste or Smell? Possible Causes Other Than COVID
A frustrated woman frowns because she can't feel the aroma and taste of a hamburger, which is an important and first symptom of the covid-19 coronavirus

( – We’ve come to associate the loss of taste or smell with COVID-19 infections — and with good reason. According to a recent Nature report, up to 96% of COVID sufferers report some kind of disruption, with the problem being so common that some experts consider it a diagnostic marker.

This knowledge has led some people to assume they have the deadly coronavirus without getting tested, delaying them from finding the real cause. Check out these other issues that can also wipe out a person’s sense of taste and smell.


It can be scary to realize that our sense of taste or smell has suddenly disappeared. Could it be COVID? The answer may be yes, especially if any of the following symptoms also occur:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Muscle or body aches

If any of these symptoms occur, be sure to get tested. But even if they don’t occur, it’s still vital to contact a healthcare provider about getting a COVID test.

Other Causes Besides COVID

Those who have tested negative for COVID yet are experiencing loss of taste or smell might want to talk to their doctors about retesting. Sometimes, a false-negative test result may occur.

If a repeat test shows that COVID isn’t to blame, it might be time to look at other possible causes. These include:

Other Viral Infections

Numerous viral infections other than COVID-19 can affect a person’s sense of smell and taste. The issue, which is at the source of between 14% and 25% of cases, is typically the result of obstruction due to inflammation in the nasal cavity, and it usually resolves on its own after the effects of the infection have cleared. Neither the flu nor the common cold cause this complication in most cases, so pinpointing the actual infection may require a trip to the doctor.


This common issue is responsible for a lost sense of smell or taste in about 25% of all cases, according to the University of Connecticut Health Center. Again, obstruction is usually the cause, so seeing a doctor to find the source is often in order. In some cases, gaining better control over allergies can help sufferers regain some or all of the lost sense.

Nasal Polyps and Tumors

About 58% of people who have nasal polyps also complain of a lost sense of smell. Some polyps result from allergies, but they can have other causes that may need a specialist’s help to determine. Other symptoms of nasal polyps are congestion, nasal discharge, sneezing, headaches, and snoring. In rare cases, brain tumors can have similar effects on smell and taste.

Endocrine Conditions

The connections between our endocrine and neurological systems can open us to unexpected results. People suffering from diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, and other endocrine conditions can experience a lost sense of smell or taste due to their symptoms. Endocrine disruptions related to pregnancy can have similar effects.

Cigarette Smoking

Smokers, in general, are more likely than nonsmokers to experience issues with their sense of smell. People who smoke a pack a day or more are more likely to lose their sense of taste as well — but these are only a couple of reasons out of many to kick the habit. Tobacco users who are ready to quit can obtain resources through the National Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Environmental Factors

Numerous compounds many of us come into contact with can have similar effects. Exposure to pesticides, disinfectants, solvents, smog, and several other airborne chemicals can blunt the sense of smell and alter taste. Mold exposure may also cause this type of damage.

Medications and Drugs

Many prescription medications can affect users’ sense of smell and taste. The effects can be more profound in older adults, who naturally see declines in these senses. Sufferers may not always be able to stop taking the offending medications, so they might need to find their own strategies to make foods more palatable.

Illegal drug use can also have effects. For example, snorting cocaine can contribute to inflammation and damage that can affect users’ ability to smell.

COVID-19 can cause these issues, so a sudden loss in either does warrant a test. However, in the presence of negative results, a search for alternative causes might be in order. The above is just an overview of possible triggers, so people who experience problems should see their doctors for personalized solutions.

~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension

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