Quick Olfactory Sniffin’ Sticks Test (Q-Sticks) for the detection of smell disorders in COVID-19 patients

Diego Bagnasco, Giovanni Passalacqua, Fulvio Braido, Elena Tagliabue, Filippo Cosini, Marta Filauro, Alessandro Ioppi, Andrea Carobbio, Davide Mocellin, Anna Maria Riccio, Frank Rikki Canevari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection represents a worldwide critical health burden from the sanitary perspective. This disease's symptoms range from a mild flu-like form to a severe life-threatening respiratory disease and respiratory failure. Several patients, however, remain paucisymptomatic. Among the symptoms that seem relevant are the changes in taste and smell, regardless of the disease's severity. Methods: Data from patients affected by COVID-19 infection, hospitalized from 15 to 29 April, 2020, were analyzed. Questionnaires about smell, taste, and nasal function were administered to all, and a proportion also received the Quick olfactory Sniffin’ Sticks Test (q-Sticks) to objectivate the presence of anosmia or hyposmia. The results of instruments and Q-Sticks were then compared. Results: Thirty-seven patients (20 males, 54.1%), with a mean age 0f 69.19 years (SD = 17.96; median 76, IQR: 63–82) were evaluated. Among the patients, 8 (22%) were asymptomatic. Out of the remaining 29 patients, 28 (97%) had fever, 19 (66%) asthenia, 11 (38%) dry cough, 10 (34%) dyspnea, and 6 (21%) gastroenteric symptoms. The q-Sticks test was performed on 27 patients and showed that 6 with anosmia, and 16 patients had hyposmia, where only 5 (14%) patients complained of loss of smell by conducting the questionnaires. Conclusion: Although olfactory disturbances may be secondary to other factors, a sudden onset of anosmia or hyposmia should be assessed as a possible symptom of COVID-19 infection. The use of questionnaires or anamnestic collection is sometimes not enough, while adding to them a simple test such as the q-Sticks test can provide more accurate and reliable data. A simple, easy-to-perform, and reliable tool (q-Sticks) for olfactory disorders assessment can be administered to identify the real size of anosmia in patients with COVID-19 infection and detect the early stage of infection or paucisymptomatic patients, therefore becoming important to reduce the spreading of the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100497
JournalWorld Allergy Organization Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Anosmia
  • COVID-19
  • ENT
  • Hyposmia
  • Q-stick test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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