Doctors from around the world are reporting that sudden loss of smell may be the first sign of Covid-19 infection in patients who have no other symptoms. This is especially important since early detection can stop the spread from these asymptomatic patients. The test is simple and non-invasive. Anyone can do this test. This is not a definite diagnosis but can lead to protecting the person from contacts until the proper test is available. Temperature testing is likely to miss many infected people who are unkowingly spreading the infection.
Identifying and isolating these people who are infected but have no other symptoms is critical to slowing or stopping the spread of this infection. These people will otherwise go about their business potentially infecting many others around them. This is one reason why widespread testing is so important. Meanwhile we have the peanut butter test.
ENT UK- The British Ear Nose and Throat doctors society – collected reports from China, Korea, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. You can read it here.
Let’s be clear, this is only an indicator that suggests the need to take immediate precautions and get testing as soon as available. There are many other conditions that can cause loss of smell including things like simple colds or allergies.
Loss of smell has also been used as a diagnostic tool for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A large study at Mayo Clinic found that tests of smell identified patients with early signs of memory impairment.
HOW TO DO THE PEANUT BUTTER TEST
You will need a one foot ruler and a teaspoon of peanut butter. Have the person close both eyes and block one nostril. Start with the spoon of peanut butter at one foot and slowly move it toward the person’s nose. Ask them to tell you when they can first smell peanut butter. See if there is a difference between the left and right nostrils.
The Mayo study used more smells (banana, chocolate, cinnamon, gasoline, lemon, onion, paint thinner, pineapple, rose, soap, smoke and turpentine), but peanut butter has been used as a convenient, readily available and well recognized smell. The peanut butter test was reported by Jennifer Stamps, a UF graduate student at the University of Florida McKnight Brain Institute Center for Smell and Taste.
So if you find you or someone you know has a sudden loss of smell, don’t panic but do self isolate and seek testing.