Postviral olfactory loss

      An acute upper respiratory infection, usually of viral origin, often will be associated with a loss of smell. In this early phase, this is typically a conductive or obstructive loss secondary to mucosal edema. As the cold symptoms resolve, olfactory function usually returns. In some patients, however, this loss will persist, despite a lack of residual nasal congestion or sinus pathology. At this point, the loss has become sensorineural secondary to the viral insult. Most of these patients postpone medical consultation, thinking their sense of smell will return. Only after several months or longer will they finally admit that recovery is not likely, and present to a physician.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'

      Subscribers receive full online access to your subscription and archive of back issues up to and including 2002.

      Content published before 2002 is available via pay-per-view purchase only.


      Subscribe to Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Seiden A.
        • Duncan H.
        The diagnosis of a conductive olfactory loss.
        Laryngoscope. 2001; 111: 9-14
        • Cain W.S.
        • et al.
        Evaluation of olfactory dysfunction in the Connecticut chemosensory clinical research center.
        Laryngoscope. 1988; 98: 83-88
        • Deems D.A.
        • et al.
        Smell and taste disorders, a study of 750 patients from the University of Pennsylvania Smell and Taste Center.
        Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1991; 117: 519
        • Quint C.
        • et al.
        Patterns of non-conductive olfactory disorders in eastern Austria: a study of 120 patients from the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Vienna.
        Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2001; 113: 52-57
        • NIAID
        The common cold. NIAID Fact Sheet.
        NIAID, Bethesda (MD)2003
        • Duncan H.J.
        Postviral olfactory loss.
        in: Seiden A.M. Taste and smell disorders. Thieme, New York1997: 72-78
        • Heikkinen T.
        • Jarvinen A.
        The common cold.
        Lancet. 2003; 361: 51-59
      1. Report of the Panel on Communicative Disorders to the National Advisory Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke Council.
        NIH, Washington (DC)1979 (p. 319)
        • Stroop M.G.
        Viruses and the olfactory system.
        in: Doty R.L. Handbook of olfaction and gustation. Marcel Dekker, New York1995: 367-394
        • Perlman S.
        • Evans G.
        • Afifi A.
        Effect of olfactory bulb ablation on spread of a neurotropic coronavirus into the mouse brain.
        J Exp Med. 1990; 172: 1127-1132
        • Mohammed A.K.H.
        • Magnusson O.
        • Maehlen J.
        Behavioral deficits and serotonin depletion in adult rats after transient infant nasal viral infection.
        Neuroscience. 1990; 35: 355-363
        • Yamagishi M.
        • Fujiwara M.
        • Nakamura H.
        Olfactory mucosal findings and clinical course in patients with olfactory disorders following upper respiratory viral infection.
        Rhinology. 1994; 32: 113-118
        • Douek E.
        • Bannister L.H.
        • Dodson H.C.
        Recent advances in the pathology of olfaction.
        Proc R Soc Med. 1975; 68: 467-470
        • Jafek B.W.
        • et al.
        Post viral olfactory dysfunction.
        Am J Rhinol. 1990; 4: 91-100
        • Yamagishi M.
        • Hasegawa S.
        • Nakano Y.
        Examination and classification of human olfactory mucosa in patients with clinical olfactory disturbances.
        Arch Otolaryngol. 1988; 245: 316-320
        • Yamagishi M.
        • Nakano Y.
        Immunohistochemical studies of olfactory mucosa in patients with olfactory disturbances.
        Am J Rhinol. 1989; 3: 205-210
        • Leopold D.
        A perplexing olfactory loss.
        Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000; 126: 803
        • Duncan H.
        • et al.
        Differences among patients with smell impairment resulting from head trauma, nasal disease, or prior upper respiratory infection.
        Chem Senses. 1991; 16: 517
        • Leopold D.
        Distortion of olfactory perception: diagnosis and treatment.
        Chem Senses. 2002; 27: 611-615
        • Seiden A.
        The initial assessment of patients with taste and smell disorders.
        in: Seiden A. Taste and smell disorders. Thieme, New York1997: 4-19
        • Doty R.L.
        • Shaman P.
        • Dann M.
        Development of the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test: a standardized microencapsulated test of olfactory function.
        Physiol Behav. 1984; 32: 489-502
        • Morrison E.E.
        • Moran D.T.
        Anatomy and ultrastructure of the human olfactory neuroepithelium.
        in: Doty R.L. Handbook of olfaction and gustation. Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York1995: 75-102
        • Duncan H.J.
        • Seiden A.M.
        Long-term follow-up of olfactory loss secondary to head trauma and upper respiratory tract infection.
        Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1995; 121: 1183-1187
        • Henkin R.I.
        • et al.
        A double blind study of the effects of zinc sulfate on taste and smell dysfunction.
        Am J Med Sci. 1976; 272: 285-299
        • Tsunemasa A.
        • et al.
        Effect of zinc sulfate on sensorineural olfactory disorder.
        Acta Otolaryngol (Stockh). 1998; 538: 202-204
        • Duncan R.B.
        • Briggs M.
        Treatment of uncomplicated anosmia by vitamin A.
        Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1962; 75: 116-124
        • Roydhouse N.
        Retinoid therapy and anosmia.
        N Z Med J. 1988; 101: 465
        • Hummel T.
        • Heilmann S.
        • Huttenbriuk K.B.
        Lipoic acid in the treatment of smell dysfunction following viral infection of the upper respiratory tract.
        Laryngoscope. 2002; 112: 2076-2080
        • Ikeda K.
        • et al.
        Efficacy of systemic corticosteroid treatment for anosmia with nasal and paranasal sinus disease.
        Rhinology. 1995; 33: 162-165