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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida and WUSF can help. Our responsibility at WUSF News is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

UF Health Launches COVID-19 Study On Loss Of Taste, Smell

Tourists stop to smell a cluster of cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Washington.
Tourists stop to smell a cluster of cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Washington.

Many COVID-19 patients are losing their sense of taste and smell. Doctors aren’t sure why, but a new research effort starting here in Florida aims to find out. 

The University of Florida’s is conducting a study on these symptoms that starts on Wednesday, April 15. Patients who have been tested for coronavirus at a UF Health site, regardless of their test results, are eligible to apply. 

In a Wednesday interview on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, Professor Steven Munger, Director of the UF’s Center for Smell and Taste, explained why the study is important:

“We want to assess how prevalent smell loss is with COVID-19, how severe that loss is for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and how long it lasts - how fast people recover. We need that basic information to not only understand the functional mechanisms by which this virus may be causing smell loss, but also to inform healthcare providers about how to best use this symptom to guide patients.” 

Munger pointed out that loss of smell and taste can be scary and even dangerous. “They're essential for warning us about dangers, whether it's spoiled food or a fire or a gas leak.”  He recommends to his patients suffering loss of smell and taste that they purchase natural gas detectors for their homes in addition to smoke detectors. Additionally, they should date their perishable food as they might not be able to tell if it's spoiled.

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While these symptoms can be frightening, in most cases they are not permanent, he says.

Munger also recommends that people who are suffering from loss of smell should try to train their senses to come back by smelling different items and stimulating their nasal cavity. 

“We don't have really good case control studies to know that it's effective, but it's certainly not harmful. If you have a little bit of function left, by really concentrating on this repeated smelling, you might be able to optimize that amount of function that you have left.”

To participate in the “Smell Loss and COVID-19 Study,” participants need to have been tested for the virus at a UF Health site. Those qualified can contact Steven Munger at ufcst@ufl.edu, or call 352-294-5749.

Sarah Glenn can be reached at , 904-358-6317

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