Management of new onset loss of sense of smell during the COVID-19 pandemic - BRS Consensus Guidelines

Claire Hopkins, Mikkel Alanin, Carl Philpott, Phil Harries, Katherine Whitcroft, Ali Qureishi, Shahram Anari, Yujay Ramakrishnan, Anshul Sama, Elgan Davies, Ben Stew, Simon Gane, Sean Carrie, Iain Hathorn, Raj Bhalla, Chrissi Kelly, Nina Hill, Duncan Boak, B. Nirmal Kumar

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OBJECTIVES: The primary aim of the study is to provide recommendations for the investigation and management of patients with new onset loss of sense of smell during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DESIGN: After undertaking a literature review, we used the RAND/UCLA methodology with a multi-step process to reach consensus about treatment options, onward referral, and imaging.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: An expert panel consisting of 15 members was assembled. A literature review was undertaken prior to the study and evidence was summarised for the panellists.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The panel undertook a process of ranking and classifying appropriateness of different investigations and treatment options for new onset loss of sense of smell during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using a 9-point Likert scale, panellists scored whether a treatment was: Not recommended, optional, or recommended. Consensus was achieved when more than 70% of responses fell into the category defined by the mean.

RESULTS: Consensus was reached on the majority of statements after 2 rounds of ranking. Disagreement meant no recommendation was made regarding one treatment, using Vitamin A drops. Alpha-lipoic acid was not recommended, olfactory training was recommended for all patients with persistent loss of sense of smell of more than 2 weeks duration, and oral steroids, steroid rinses, and omega 3 supplements may be considered on an individual basis. Recommendations regarding the need for referral and investigation have been made.

CONCLUSION: This study identified the appropriateness of olfactory training, different medical treatment options, referral guidelines and imaging for patients with COVID-19-related loss of sense of smell. The guideline may evolve as our experience of COVID-19 develops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-22
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Otolaryngology
Issue number1
Early online date27 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • COVID-19
  • corona virus
  • loss of sense of smell
  • olfactory training

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