Purpose. COVID-19 displays a variety of clinical manifestations; in pauci-symptomatic patients olfactory (OD) and gustatory dysfunctions (GD) may represent the first or only symptom. To date, literature addressing these disorders is scarce. Aim of this study is to investigate the timing of recovery from OD and GD in a real-life COVID-19 population.
Methods. We followed up by a phone interview the first 100 patients discharged a month earlier from three Italian non-intensive care wards.
Results. All patients were Caucasian, mean age was 65 years, 60% were males. OD and GD were early symptoms reported by 29% and 41% of patients, respectively. Among the 42 symptomatic patients, the male/female ratio was 2:1; 83% reported an almost resolved dysfunction at follow-up. The recovery rate was not significantly different between males and females. The mean duration of OD and GD was 18 and 16 days, respectively. The mean recovery time from OD or GD resulted significantly longer for females than for males (26 vs 14 days, p=0.009). Among the 42 symptomatic, the mean age of males was significantly higher than that of females (66 vs 57 years, p=0.04), while the opposite was observed in the 58 asymptomatic patients (60 vs 73 years, p=0.0018).
Conclusions. Recovery from OD or GD was rapid, occurring within 4 weeks in most patients. Chemosensory dysfunctions in women was less frequent, but longer lasting. The value of our study is its focus on a significantly older population than those previously described, and to add further data on gender differences.