If you are over 40, that one COVID symptom may never go away! If you are older, you may have a harder time shaking off this lingering effect of the virus.
Corona Remains Insidious
We still don’t know much about COVID-19, but one thing is clear: The novel coronavirus isn’t always a one-time thing. COVID is capable of re-infecting people and leaving some survivors with long-term symptoms known as “long COVID.” Experts say 10 to 30 percent of people who have contracted the virus suffer lingering symptoms, according to the Wall Street Journal. And now that the pandemic is nearly 20 months old, early survivors have shown that long COVID symptoms can last for more than a year. Depending on age, however, it may be harder to shake off any particular lasting effect of the virus.
A new study published in September in the American Journal Otolaryngology found that it’s harder for adults over 40 to regain loss of smell or taste after COVID. Researchers spoke with nearly 800 people who had tested positive for the virus and participated in an ongoing COVID-19 odor and taste loss survey that recorded symptoms 14 days, one month, three months and six months after participation in the study. According to the study, participants younger than 40 recovered their sense of smell more quickly than those over 40.
This age is still managing just fine!
“Only age below 40 was positively associated with olfactory recovery,” the researchers said. Of those over 40, more than 25 percent reported still having an abnormal sense of smell at the six-month follow-up. At the same time, more than 83 percent of those under 40 regained their sense of smell.
“We found a recovery rate of about 80 percent over a period of six months or longer,” Evan Reiter, MD, co-investigator of the study and medical director of the Center for Olfactory and Gustatory Disorders at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health, said in a statement. “However, 20 percent is still a lot of people considering that millions of people have COVID-19.
The older the patient, the more difficult the recovery!
This is not the first study to suggest that older adults have a harder time dealing with protracted COVID symptoms. A September study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at more than 350 people who tested positive for COVID between April 1 and December 10, 2020. They found that people over the age of 40 were most at risk for long-lasting COVID, with loss of taste and smell being two of the most common long-lasting symptoms, each reported by nearly 13 percent of patients two months after testing positive.
However, this might not just be because the virus attacks older adults differently. Even before the pandemic, people over the age of 40 were more likely to have changes in their sense of smell and taste. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), nearly one in four U.S. adults over the age of 40 report a change in their sense of smell and one in five report a change in their sense of taste.
Only 60-80% chance of recovery
Harvard Medical School experts say that while there is a 60 to 80 percent chance of recovering the sense of smell or taste after COVID treatment, recovery may take longer and not be complete in older adults because these senses also decline with age. “In some people it’s temporary, in others it can be permanent,” Dr. Simone Wildes, an infectious disease physician at South Shore Health in Massachusetts, told USA Today.