COVID-19 is a respiratory infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Symptoms vary between people, but the most typical symptoms include:

COVID-19 has also been linked to a variety of other symptoms like loss of smell, diarrhea, sore throat, and vomiting. About 17.9 to 33.3 percent of people with it don’t develop any symptoms.

Dry nasal passages can potentially be a symptom of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. But experiencing a dry nose in the absence of more typical COVID-19 symptoms is unlikely to be a sign of infection.

Keep reading as we examine how COVID-19 causes dry nasal passages and what other nasal symptoms can be signs of COVID-19 infection

Dry nasal passages occur when your sinuses don’t produce enough mucus to keep them moist. The virus that causes COVID-19 can potentially interfere with mucus production.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is thought to enter your cells through an enzyme called angiotensin converting hormone 2 (ACE2). This enzyme is found in many tissues in your body, including the epithelial cells that line your nasal cells and mucus-producing goblet cells.

The nasal symptoms of COVID-19 can be similar to those of other upper respiratory infections and sometimes include nasal burning or dryness. But it’s not clear how common these symptoms are.

A 2020 study found that a group of 35 people with COVID-19 reported a strange sensation in their nose or excessive nasal dryness significantly more often than people without COVID-19 infection. Fifty-two percent of people in the COVID-19 group reported a feeling like a continual “nasal douche,” compared with 3 percent of people in the control group.

The researchers also found that nasal dryness commonly occurred together with complete or partial loss of smell and taste, and tended to appear before other COVID-19 symptoms.

More research is needed to verify these findings.

COVID-19 and nosebleeds

It’s not clear if COVID-19 also increases your chances of developing nosebleeds. A few studies suggest that nosebleeds may be more common in people with COVID-19 than people without. For example, a 2020 study found that 11 percent of a group of 54 people with COVID-19 who lost their sense of smell also experienced nosebleeds.

Decongestants and dry nasal passages

A 2020 review of studies found that 4.1 percent of people in a group of 1,773 people with COVID-19 experienced a stuffy nose. Taking decongestant medication to combat a stuffy nose can potentially lead to dry nasal passages.

Along with causing a dry nose, COVID-19 can also lead to a dry, sore throat. An August 2020 study found that of 223 adults with COVID-19, 16.1 percent developed a dry throat.

The most common nasal symptom of COVID-19 is a change in your ability to smell. There’s been an increasing number of people reporting partial or complete loss of smell, as well as a distorted sense of smell. Some studies suggest these symptoms may be present in more than half of people with COVID-19.

Nasal congestion and runny nose have both been reported in people with COVID-19. The 2020 review of studies found that in the group of 1,773 people with confirmed COVID-19 infection, 4.1 percent developed nasal congestion and 2.1 percent developed a runny nose.

Researchers have improved their understanding of COVID-19 symptoms as they’ve had more time to study the virus. Symptoms that appear most often include:

Some COVID-19 symptoms have been found to persist long after the infection. For example, some studies report people losing their smell or experiencing changes in their sense of smell for 3 months or longer.

Currently, there’s no scientific evidence that dry nasal passages persist after COVID-19 infection.

A review of studies published in March 2021 identified more than 50 long-term symptoms in people recovering from COVID-19, but dry nasal passages wasn’t one of the identified symptoms.

But it’s possible that dry nasal passages could be identified as a symptom in the future.

Many conditions besides COVID-19 can also cause dry nasal passages. Here’s a look at some of the potential causes.

  • Other infections. Other respiratory infections like the common cold or sinus infections can potentially to lead to dryness, inflammation, and burning.
  • Seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies commonly irritate your sinuses and lead to inflammation and dryness. Some allergy medications can also contribute.
  • Decongestants. Decongestants tend to dry out your sinuses by decreasing mucous production.
  • Prolonged mask-wearing. Wearing some types of masks like N95 respirators have been linked to the development of dry eyes and nose.
  • Dry air. Exposure to dry air can lead to nose irritation and dryness. Air tends to be particularly dry in the winter months.
  • Dehydration. Not drinking enough water increases the chances of your mucous membranes drying out, especially if you’re already prone.

A dry nasal passage has many potential causes. If you have other COVID-19 symptoms or think you may have a COVID-19 infection, you should isolate yourself from other people and treat your symptoms at home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends isolating for:

  • at least 10 days from the time symptoms onset AND
  • once you go at least 24 hours with no fever and without taking fever-reducing medication AND
  • until your other symptoms show improvement
Medical emergency

You should seek medical help if you also experience any of the CDC’s emergency symptoms, which are:

  • trouble breathing
  • newly developed confusion
  • an inability to wake or stay awake
  • lips, nail beds, or skin that appears pale, gray, or blue
  • anything else concerning

People with dark skin may have more difficulty noticing discoloration that indicates oxygen deprivation than people with lighter skin.

The virus that causes COVID-19 can potentially disrupt your mucus production and dry out your nasal passages. But dry nasal passages in the absence of more typical flu-like symptoms are unlikely to be a sign of COVID-19 infection. Fever, cough, and fatigue are among the more typical symptoms.

Dry nasal passages can have many other potential causes that include exposure to dry air, prolonged mask-wearing, and allergies.