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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Xerostomia, gustatory and olfactory dysfunctions in patients with COVID-19.

  • Author(s): Fantozzi, Paolo J
  • Pampena, Emanuele
  • Di Vanna, Domenico
  • Pellegrino, Eugenia
  • Corbi, Daniele
  • Mammucari, Stefano
  • Alessi, Federica
  • Pampena, Riccardo
  • Bertazzoni, Giuliano
  • Minisola, Salvatore
  • Mastroianni, Claudio Maria
  • Polimeni, Antonella
  • Romeo, Umberto
  • Villa, Alessandro
  • et al.


The novel Coronavirus Disease-19 (COVID-19) continues to have profound effect on global health. Our aim was to evaluate the prevalence and characterize specific symptoms associated with COVID-19.


This retrospective study included 326 patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection evaluated at the Emergency Department of the Umberto I Polyclinic Hospital, Rome, Italy between March 6th and April 30th, 2020. In order to assess xerostomia, olfactory and gustatory dysfunctions secondary to COVID-19, a telephone-based a modified survey obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2013-2014 for taste and smell disorders and the Fox Questionnaire for dry mouth were administered to 111 patients (34%) after discharge between June 4th and June 12th.


Taste dysfunction was the most common reported symptom (59.5%; n = 66), followed by xerostomia (45.9%; n = 51) and olfactory dysfunctions (41.4%; n = 46). The most severe symptom was olfactory dysfunction with a median severity score of 8.5 (range: 5-10). Overall 74.5% (n = 38) of patients with xerostomia, 78.8% (n = 52) of patients with gustatory dysfunctions and 71.1% (n = 33) of patients with olfactory dysfunctions reported that all symptoms appeared before COVID-19 diagnosis. Overall, the majority of patients reported one symptom only (45.9%, n = 51), 37 (33.3%) reported the association of two symptoms, and 23 (20.7%) patients reported the association of three symptoms at the same time.


Xerostomia, gustatory and olfactory dysfunctions may present as a prodromal or as the sole manifestation of COVID-19. Awareness is fundamental to identify COVID-19 patients at an early stage of the disease and limit the spread of the virus.

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