You should self-isolate at home for seven days if you lose your normal sense of smell or taste, according to new official guidance.
The advice was issued by the UK’s four chief medical officers, including Scotland’s CMO Dr Gregor Smith.
It builds on the existing public health guidance to go into self-isolation for seven days if you develop the coronavirus symptoms of a new continuous cough or a high temperature.
Described medically as anosmia, it means a change or a loss of your normal sense of smell, and can also affect your sense of taste as the two are closely linked.
If you develop anosmia – as with the two other Covid-19 symptoms – you must stay at home for seven days and everyone else in your household must stay at home for 14 days to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
In a joint statement, the UK’s chief medical officers said: “From today, all individuals should self-isolate if they develop a new continuous cough or fever or anosmia.
“Anosmia is the loss or a change in your normal sense of smell. It can also affect your sense of taste as the two are closely linked.
“We have been closely monitoring the emerging data and evidence on COVID-19 and after thorough consideration, we are now confident enough to recommend this new measure.”
“The individual’s household should also self-isolate for 14 days as per the current guidelines and the individual should stay at home for 7 days, or longer if they still have symptoms other than cough or loss of sense of smell.”
It comes weeks after experts first raised concerns that Covid-19 cases are being missed due to not tracking enough symptoms.
In a major study, published last week by Professor Tim Spector at King’s College London, people with a positive Covid-19 test result were found to be three times more likely to report loss of smell and taste as a symptom than those who went on to test negative.
Prof Spector estimated between 50,000 to 70,000 people in the UK with Covid-19 were currently not being told to self-isolate even though they had the virus due to the reluctance to add new symptoms beyond a fever and cough to public health guidance.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said on April 3 that the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) had looked at the issue and concluded loss of smell or taste should not be added to the symptom list.
But in the same month, ENT UK, the professional membership body representing ear, nose and throat surgery in the UK, published guidance to patients saying it believed loss of smell and loss of taste were symptoms of coronavirus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) listed loss of smell and taste as “less common symptoms” several weeks ago and other countries, including the US, added the symptom.