August 28, 2020

Scratch and sniff

We have talked about anosmia, the loss of smell, being a sign of COVID-19. We didn’t know it in the beginning, but we do now. It may be one of the most common symptoms, especially in people with milder cases. Interesting that the symptom of anosmia is being put to use. Penn State is using a smell test to diagnose COVD-19 early. They are using scratch and sniff postcards to have students monitor for loss of smell. If a student can’t smell the card, they are told to self-isolate and get tested immediately. They are working with a website called that helps track the sense of smell and give reminders. The scratch and sniff tests make it easy. The university is hoping to cut down on the number of cases, so it can stay open. Looking at this map of cases in colleges across the country from the New York Times, we need to do more to help slow the infections. This is a start.

We can use smelltracker too by using things we have in our homes, such as vanilla, coffee, spices, and toothpaste. Recognizing COVID-19 early can cut down on exposures, especially in your household.

I like this intriguing idea and think it can be helpful, but it has its limitations. Asymptomatic transmissions are a big driver of new infections, so it will not catch the period of transmissions before symptoms begin. But since our present testing is inadequate because test results take so long, noticing this change might be helpful and change behavior. I plan to write more about testing this weekend.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and get some scratch and sniff stickers.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.