While COVID-19 affects everyone differently, which is what makes the infectious disease such a mystery, a common symptom many COVID-19 patients share is an abrupt loss of taste and smell. In fact, this symptom has become an important clue in judging whether someone’s been infected with coronavirus. And many Americans may first notice it while drinking their morning coffee.
In 2018, the National Coffee Association conducted a survey which revealed that 64% of Americans age 18 or over reported they drink coffee. With millions of us drinking the caffeinated beverage each morning, we’re bound to note the absence of its familiar aroma. This could be the first sign that we contracted the virus and need to stay away from others and quarantine.
“We have long known that people can lose their sense of smell after other viral infections, such as the flu, but the percentage of people who have had this problem with COVID-19 is quite remarkable,” James Schwob, a professor of developmental, molecular, and chemical biology at Tufts University School of Medicine said in a recent interview with the university.
“Sometimes loss of smell is a COVID-19 patient’s only symptom. Any symptom that can be tied directly to the disease becomes an important one to be aware of, so that it can be used to guide testing and keep people from unknowingly spreading the disease,” Schwob adds.
Essentially, the professor suggests that keeping up with your morning coffee routine is a good way to keep tabs on whether you should go and get a test.
“One of the things that can be done pretty easily, pretty objectively by someone at home would be to take some ground coffee and see how far away you can hold it and still smell it,” he says. “If your nose is not congested and you have trouble recognizing those or other scents that are familiar to you, you might want to call your doctor about getting tested.”
In fact, The Daily Coffee News recently reported that its own, “review of scientific literature and anecdotal advice from scholars of taste and smell shows dozens of examples of coffee being used as the barometer for a kind of sniff-test for COVID-19, in part for its distinct smell and also for its broad global availability in homes.”
Unfortunately, some who have recovered from the virus experience a prolonged period in which they can’t smell or taste properly, while an unlucky minority will find that their senses have been severely altered. Bar manager of Crown Shy in New York City, Jonathan Lind, told Food&Wine that after seven months of testing positive for COVID-19, “I was starting to be able to smell and taste things that weren’t there, and I was picking up flavors that others wouldn’t have agreed with.”
For example, he describes aged spirits tasting like “pineapple made of cardboard” and compares a diet Coke to what he would assume a cosmetic product would taste like. Of course, this doesn’t happen to everyone who loses their sense of taste and smell—others say food continues to taste bland a few weeks after recovering from the virus.
In short, if you cannot smell your coffee in the morning, it’s time to self-isolate and get a test. And for more, be sure to check out 10 Coffee Hacks for Weight Loss, According to Registered Dietitians.