How to Regain Taste After COVID-19

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
November 9, 2021

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, congestion, or runny nose.

But COVID-19 can also result in other, less common symptoms, like a loss of taste or smell.

More than 85% of patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 reported problems with their sense of smell, and about the same number of people reported changes in their ability to taste. 

While losing your sense of taste or smell can be alarming, it can be part of any respiratory illness.

The difference with COVID-19 is that the loss of taste or smell is often the first symptom people experience—and sometimes, it’s the only symptom.

According to a 2020 paper in the American Journal of Otolaryngology, loss of smell — called asomnia — can occur alone or be accompanied by other common symptoms of COVID-19. 

Luckily, many COVID-19 patients regain their sense of taste and smell over time, but it’s still important to seek medical advice if you experience these.

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, talk to a doctor, who can diagnose you and recommend the best ways to manage your symptoms. 

In this article, I’ll explain why you lose your sense of taste with COVID-19, and what to do if your sense of taste suddenly disappears.

I’ll also explain how to regain your sense of taste. I’ll outline when you should see a doctor, and how K Health can help.

Why Do You Lose Taste With COVID-19? 

If you’ve ever had a bad cold or the flu, you may have noticed that your congestion can make it hard to smell or taste.

While COVID-19 can cause many respiratory symptoms, nasal congestion isn’t among the most prominent—so the loss of taste and smell people experience may stem from another cause.

At this point, researchers haven’t pinpointed that exact cause. 

Some research suggests the loss of taste has to do with the way the virus attacks the nervous system.

When SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, enters the mucus membranes, it may attack olfactory helper cells in the nasal cavity.

These are the cells responsible for transmitting the sensation of smell from your nose to your brain.

This means, essentially, that the brain and nasal passages can’t properly communicate about smells, resulting in difficulty identifying odors. 

Why people also lose their sense of taste with COVID-19 is less clear; it may be because smell and taste are so intertwined.

What to Do If Your Sense of Taste Disappears

If you lose your sense of taste or smell, and you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or you have other COVID-19 symptoms, get tested for COVID-19.

If your test is positive, isolate until your doctor tells you it’s OK to resume school or work outside the home.

Eventually, your sense of taste and smell may return, though it might take some time (and patience). 

If your loss of taste or smell isn’t related to COVID-19, talk to your doctor, who can look for other causes and recommend treatments that may help. 

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How to Regain Sense of Taste After COVID-19

Most people who lose their sense of taste and smell after a bout of COVID-19 eventually regain it.

Unfortunately, there’s no proven effective treatment to speed up this recovery—it often just takes time. In one study, 53 out of 54 French patients experienced a full recovery of anosmia in 28 days.

A Danish study, however, found 41% of those with taste dysfunction hadn’t regained it after six weeks. 

A Google search will lead to lots of ideas for how to help regain your sense of taste after COVID-19, and it can’t hurt to try them with your doctor’s OK.

Some interesting possible treatments, such as biting into an onion or eating a charred orange, could actually help your body form new nerve pathways to recover your sense of smell and taste.

One review from 2020 suggests olfactory training, or retraining yourself to smell, worked better than methods such as steroids and acupuncture.

When to See a Doctor

If you think you may have COVID-19, get tested and try to isolate yourself until your doctor tells you it’s OK to resume normal activities.

If you’ve already had COVID-19 and your sense of taste or smell have not yet returned, talk to a healthcare provider, who can help you understand the problem and navigate the next steps. 

How K Health Can Help

If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, it’s important to talk to a doctor.

Download K Health to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a clinician in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the COVID-19 vaccine help regain your sense of taste?
The COVID-19 vaccine is effective in preventing infection with and serious symptoms of COVID-19, but it won’t help with COVID-19 symptoms you already have. If you’ve experienced a loss of taste or smell due to a COVID-19 infection, talk to your doctor.
Can loss of taste be the symptom of something other than COVID-19?
A loss of taste is associated with COVID-19, but it can also occur due to other infections, such as the common cold, the flu, or a sinus infection. Allergies (allergic rhinitis) can also impact people’s sense of taste. In rarer cases, a more serious medical condition may be interfering with the sense of taste and smell, so if your symptoms do not get better after a month or more, speak to your doctor about it.
Does loss of taste and smell always happen together?
In COVID-19, not everyone who loses smell also loses taste. But because the two senses work together, many people do experience the loss of both. Loss of taste and smell can also occur due to other illnesses and medical conditions.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.