BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The symptoms of coronavirus include coughing, high fevers, and shortness of breath. But you may have seen reports online over the past few days that doctors believe that the loss of a sense of smell can be added to that list.
Dr. Eric Holbrook is Chief of Rhinology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He spoke with WBZ NewsRadio's Ben Parker about the possible new symptom.
Dr. Holbrook said medical professionals are still trying to gather data, but that they've noticed more complaints about smell loss.
"Because of the volume of reports, it does make us think more about using this as another symptom to decide whether a patient might be infected with COVID-19," he said.
But the doctor said it's tough to determine, since there are a variety of conditions that could cause smell loss.
"Any time you have any inflammation in the nasal cavity, whether it's from infection or even from allergies or chronic sinus conditions, that swelling and obstruction is going to prevent odors from getting to the nerves that are needed to be activated for a sense of smell, so anything that does that will potentially give you a decreased sense of smell."
However, he added that smell loss complaints do seem to be higher now, and are being reported without the normal nasal congestion and nasal obstruction."
Adding to the difficulty? It's allergy season, and coupled with recent warm weather, some people losing their smell could just be suffering from allergies.
"I think you have to have a recognition of what you usually experience during this time of year, and any deviation from those symptoms should alert you to the possibility of having additional viral infection, such as COVID-19," Dr. Holbrook advised.
Ultimately, Holbrook is hesitant to put too much emphasis on smell loss.
"We don't want people just to use this lack of sense of smell as a symptom that would diagnose someone with COVID-19," he said. "I think it could be integrated with a broad range of symptoms that are already being checked for, such as cough, muscle pains, and fever, but alone, right now, I think that might be a little dangerous. Putting too much emphasis on it may neglect these other symptoms and give you a false sense of security."
For now, doctors will keep treating patients and gathering data, and there will be more answers down the road.
Listen to the full interview with Dr. Holbrook below.
WBZ NewsRadio's Ben Parker (@radiobenparker) reports