COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory disease first discovered in late 2019, caused by the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

The majority of people with COVID-19 develop mild symptoms such as a cough, fever, and fatigue. People over age 65 and people with underlying health conditions like diabetes or obesity are at the highest risk of developing a severe case.

COVID-19 can cause nasal symptoms similar to upper respiratory infections, such as a stuffy or runny nose. Some anecdotal reports and case studies also describe people with COVID-19 developing a nose burning sensation.

Keep reading as we take a deeper look at whether a burning sensation in your nose is a common symptom of COVID-19. We’ll also take a look at how the symptoms of COVID-19 compare with those of other respiratory infections and allergies.

Burning in your nose can potentially be a symptom of COVID-19, but it’s not one of the most common symptoms. The only medical studies examining nose burning are isolated case studies. So, at this time, it’s not clear how frequently people experience it.

What causes a burning sensation in your nose?

A burning sensation in your nose can be caused by inflammation in your sinuses from a sinus infection. Viruses, fungi, and bacteria can cause sinus infections.

One August 2020 study of 1,773 people with COVID-19 found that 4.1 percent developed nasal congestion and 2.1 percent developed a runny nose. These conditions can lead to a blockage of the sinuses that encourages the growth of bacteria or fungi.

Case studies

Sinus infections don’t seem to be common among people with COVID-19, but a few case reports have noted them.

A study published in the Journal of Surgical Case Reports in March 2021 describes a 52-year-old man with COVID-19 who developed a severe sinus infection that led to erosion of bone on the floor of his sinus and complications in his right eye.

It was unclear if COVID-19 was the only cause of or a contributing factor to the infection. However, negative fungal and bacterial cultures suggest that COVID-19 may have played a major role.

A February 2021 study examined three people with COVID-19 requiring intensive care, who developed fungal sinus infections. Fungal sinus infections have a high mortality rate among immunocompromised people. All three people in the study died from other COVID-19 complications.

Again, most people don’t appear to get a sinus infection from COVID-19.

How COVID-19 targets cells in your nose

According to an April 2020 review, researchers think that COVID-19 enters your cells through an enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2). ACE-2 is found in as high a concentration in your nasal cavity as well as any other part of your upper respiratory or digestive tract.

ACE-2 is also found in other parts of your body, such as your gastrointestinal tract, lungs, blood vessels, and heart.

The highest concentration of ACE-2 in your nose is found in mucus-producing goblet cells and ciliated epithelial cells, which are cells that line the tract of your nasal cavity.

Researchers have also found that COVID-19 also needs a protein called TMPRSS2 to optimally enter a cell. TMPRSS2 has also been identified in the cells that line your nose, according to June 2020 research.

Mouse studies have found that reducing levels of this protein in mice led to decreased replication of the COVID-19 virus.

According to a 2021 study published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology, about 33 percent of people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms affecting the nose, such as loss of smell or taste.

Loss or reduction of taste and smell are frequently reported as early symptoms of COVID-19. One July 2020 study found that 73 percent of people reported a loss of smell prior to COVID-19 diagnosis and 26.6 percent of people reported it as the initial symptom.

Other nasal symptoms linked to COVID-19 include:

According to the World Health Organization, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • fever
  • dry cough
  • tiredness

Less common but still frequently reported symptoms include:

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the symptoms of other upper respiratory infections and allergies.

Here’s a look at how the typical symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, colds, and allergies compare.

COVID-19InfluenzaCommon coldAllergies
runny or stuffy noserunny or stuffy noserunny or stuffy noserunny or stuffy nose
body achesbody achesbody achesshortness of breath
sore throatsore throatsore throatsneezing
headacheheadachesneezingitchy eyes, nose, or throat
chillschills loss of tasteswollen or puffy eyelids
feverfever loss of smellred or pink eyes
red or pink eyessneezing
shortness of breath
skin rash
loss of taste
loss of smell

A few key symptoms may help identify your condition:

  • Allergy symptoms tend to last for weeks or months and include sneezing.
  • Fever and body aches aren’t symptoms of allergies.
  • Sneezing isn’t a symptom of COVID-19.
  • Allergy symptoms typically don’t include coughing, unless you have a lot of drainage in your nose.
  • The flu and colds don’t typically lead to shortness of breath. When they do, it usually isn’t as severe as it is with COVID-19.

Most people with COVID-19 develop mild symptoms. Mild COVID-19 can be treated at home by:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • staying hydrated
  • taking over-the-counter medications like Tylenol to help manage symptoms

It’s important to isolate yourself as much as possible and to avoid public areas.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most adults can stop isolating 10 days after symptom onset and 24 hours after their fever is gone without the use of medication.

Medical emergency

It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you or a loved one have emergency symptoms of COVID-19. Many hospitals have separate wings dedicated to treating COVID-19 and take walk-ins.

The CDC’s list of emergency symptoms includes:

People with dark skin may have more difficulty noticing discoloration in their nails, lips, or skin. Discoloration in these areas suggests oxygen deprivation.

A burning sensation in your nose can potentially be a sign of COVID-19, but it’s not a typical symptom.

Some people with COVID-19 develop a runny or stuffy nose. These conditions can lead to a sinus infection that can cause inflammation and a burning sensation.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the symptoms of other upper respiratory infections and allergies. A fever isn’t a symptom of allergies and might be a sign you’re dealing with a viral infection.

If you think you have COVID-19, it’s important to isolate yourself from other people and seek medical attention if you develop severe symptoms.