Sense of smell and taste loss, with Miss Joanna Stephens, Consultant ENT Surgeon


Have you developed a problem with your sense of smell or taste? Miss Joanna Stephens, Consultant ENT Surgeon at One Hatfield Hospital, explains more about the possible long term effects of Covid-19 on your sense of smell and taste, and the condition known as anosmia.  


Have you developed a problem with your sense of smell or taste?

As a result of Covid-19, loss of sense of smell has been in the news a lot recently. Lots of people have become aware that their sense of smell or taste, or both, have been altered or even lost completely. It is now recognised that people infected with Covid-19 may have loss of sense of smell as an isolated symptom (i.e. the only symptom that they have of the infection). It can also happen after a normal head cold, a head injury, or for no obvious reason.


Should I be worried?

Lost sense of smell and tasteI specialise in Smell & Taste disorders and have run the Hertfordshire Smell & Taste Clinic at the Lister Hospital since 2017.

In normal times outside of the Coronavirus pandemic, people can sometimes lose their sense of smell or taste, either partially or completely. This can happen for a number of different reasons and is a good reason to seek the advice of an Ear Nose & Throat Consultant. Losing your sense of smell is often very upsetting for patients and can make people feel very sad or down. 

There is no reason to worry although you should follow the government advice on self- isolating if you experience sudden or acute loss of smell (anosmia). 


Will my sense of smell or taste come back?

Some people will get improvement of their symptoms over time, but the amount your senses return depends on the cause of your loss of smell and taste. The early data which we have suggests that patients who have lost their sense of smell due to Covid-19 infection will, in most cases, see a spontaneous recovery of their symptoms within a few weeks.  People often experience a dramatic decrease in their sense of taste when their smell is diminished as the two senses are intrinsically linked, and often see an improvement if the sense of smell gets better.

If this does not happen, it is a good idea to arrange an appointment if your symptoms are bothering you and you would like some advice.


Is there anything I can do?

There are some treatments available, including smell training, which have been shown to improve recovery in some patients. Under normal circumstances, I often treat patients with a short course of high dose oral steroids (Prednisolone) but currently this is not recommended, as it may worsen the symptoms of an underlying or undiagnosed coronavirus infection.


Will I need to be seen in person?

I can either meet you in person and examine your nose with a camera as part of the work, or if you prefer to stay at home I am offering telephone consultations with advice and treatment where possible. If based on our phone call I think that you need to be seen in person, I can arrange for this to happen using our enhanced protective measures to ensure it is safe.


Will I need to have any tests or examinations?

It may be required to arrange an investigation, often an MRI scan but sometimes a CT scan is more appropriate.  If I feel your smell and taste loss is almost certainly caused by a Covid-19 infection, an MRI may not be required.


Call 01707 443 333 to book a consultation with Miss Joanna Stephens, Consultant ENT Surgeon at One Hatfield Hospital. 


Miss Joanna Stephens


Ensuring the continued safety of our patients at all times.

Please do not come to the hospital if you feel unwell or have symptoms of COVID-19. 

You can read our full Covid-19 guidance here.