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Original Investigation
March 2016

Incidence of and Factors Associated With Hypogeusia in Healthy Children

Author Affiliations
  • 1Section of Otolaryngology, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire
  • 2Department of Anesthesiology, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2016;142(3):229-233. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2015.3266

Importance  There are currently no measures of isolated glossopharyngeal taste in healthy children, to our knowledge.

Objective  To define the taste characteristics of an otherwise healthy pediatric population that could serve as a control group for further investigations.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A prospective study of taste and smell was conducted from August 4 to 29, 2014, at a general pediatrics clinic in a tertiary care medical center in 80 healthy children aged 6 to 17 years who were receiving well-child examinations or vaccinations or in their healthy siblings.

Exposures  Testing of smell and taste.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Demographic data were gathered on age, sex, and body mass index as well as type of insurance. Smell testing was performed with the National Institutes of Health Toolbox Odor Identification Test, with scores based on national averages for age and sex. Validated Taste Strips were used for testing sweet, salty, sour, and bitter tastes. One strip at a time was placed on the midline of the tongue at the circumvallate papillae in random tastant order and in increasing concentrations. Correct identification of the tastant earned 1 point; of 16 possible points, a score of less than 9 signified hypogeusia. Fisher exact test was used for statistical analysis.

Results  The mean (SD) age of the 80 children in this study was 11.3 (3.2) years, and 43 were boys (54%). Hypogeusia was identified in 32 (40%) of the 80 children. Overweight or obesity was identified in 23 children (29%) (15 [31%] with a normal sense of taste and 8 [25%] with hypogeusia; P = .62), and 12 (15%) used public insurance (7 [15%] with a normal sense of taste and 5 [16%] with hypogeusia; P > .99). Age younger than 12 years (24 [50%] with a normal sense of taste and 19 [59%] with hypogeusia; P = .50), male sex (25 [52%] with a normal sense of taste and 18 [56%] with hypogeusia; P = .39), overweight or obesity (15 [31%] with a normal sense of taste and 8 [25%] with hypogeusia; P = .62), insurance type (P > .99), and olfaction less than the 50th percentile (29 [60%] with a normal sense of taste and 17 [53%] with hypogeusia; P = .65) or hyposmia (<10th percentile; P = .47) were not statistically significantly correlated with overall hypogeusia.

Conclusions and Relevance  A significant proportion of otherwise healthy children have hypogeusia according to previously published criteria. This study will provide baseline data from which future investigations studying taste disturbances in patients with chronic tonsillitis and after tonsillectomy can be compared.