Fact sheet for assessing taste and smell disturbance due to COVID infection

19 July 2022
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Taste and smell are independent senses that combine to form flavour.  Both taste and smell can be affected by Covid.  There are a few simple steps you can do to assess your taste and smell function at home.  If you do have some sensory disturbances, repeating the tasks below may help with recovery of taste and smell.


The sense of taste qualities are sweet, sour, salty and bitter.  These tastes may be affected by Covid independent of any alteration to smell.

Follow the procedure below to assess your sense of taste at home.

Half fill a glass with water and add:

1/ Sour: Half fill a glass with water and add 1 tablespoon vinegar and mix.

2/ Sweet: Half fill a glass with water and add 1 tablespoon sugar, mix till dissolved.

3/ Salt: Half fill a glass with water and add 1 teaspoon salt, mix till dissolve.

4/ Bitter: Purchase an Indian tonic water, it contains quinine-HCl, which is a bitter stimulus.

Rinse each of the solutions in your mouth and you should experience the appropriate taste quality. If you don’t you have a taste disturbance, and repeating this procedure 2-3 times a day may help the taste system recover.


The sense of smell is activated by active sniffing – think about sniffing a flower to experience the odour.  Compounds that are circulating in the air travel up the nose and activate smell receptors.  To test your sense of smell you can use commons foods that are in your pantry.

For example, identify some foods in your fridge or pantry that have a familiar or distinctive odour such as cinnamon, vanilla, vegemite, fish sauce.  Sniff each sample one-by-one and repeat this 3-4 times a day for a week. You should be experiencing the typical odour of the food. If you do not smell the typical food odour you have some form of smell disturbance.  It may be that you cannot smell only one of the foods, which indicates partial loss of smell.  It could be that all the odours are present, but very weak, or alternatively they are very strong.  Or perhaps you cannot smell any of the odours which indicates a complete loss of the sense of smell.  There are many possible outcomes.

After one week of sniffing the 4 foods, change to another 4 food odours and keep repeating this process until to start to recover your sense of smell.  The good news is that the disturbance with smell will resolve over a few weeks for most people, and this training may help speed up the recovery.


Written by Professor Russell Keast for 3AW.