Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a virus that causes a person to develop COVID-19. Common symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever and a cough. Recent evidence suggests that a runny nose is a common symptom of COVID-19 that results from the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date.

According to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, also known as the B.1.617.2 lineage, originated in India in late 2020.

Symptoms of any form of COVID-19 can include a runny nose. However, having a runny nose may be a main symptom of COVID-19 that results from the delta variant.

Read on to learn more about COVID-19 symptoms, some other causes of a runny nose, and how to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

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A runny nose can be a symptom of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that a runny nose can be a symptom of COVID-19 in both children and adults.

There are multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2. According to the Washington State Department of Health, a runny nose is rarely a symptom of COVID-19 that is due to previous variants of the virus, but it can occur.

However, according to recent evidence, a runny nose may be a main symptom of COVID-19 that results from the recently discovered delta variant.

The delta variant accounted for 10% of COVID-19 cases in the United States as of June 14, 2021.

Recent data from the United Kingdom Zoe COVID Symptom study suggest that delta variant infections manifest with a headache, followed by a sore throat, a runny nose, and a fever. For this reason, anyone with a runny nose should consider getting a COVID-19 test.

For people living in the U.K., tests are not yet available for those with just a runny nose. However, individuals can take a lateral flow test at home.

Additionally, if a person is concerned about or unsure of the cause of their runny nose, they could contact a doctor or book a COVID-19 test.

However, it is also important to remember that allergies such as hay fever are common during the summer months. If a person usually experiences hay fever, their runny nose may be due to that rather than COVID-19.

The CDC has an advice page on how a person can get a COVID-19 test. It recommends that a person contacts a healthcare professional or visits their health department’s website to get information on local testing.

If a healthcare professional is unable to perform the test, a person may receive an at-home test kit.

Learn more about some home testing options here.

Other symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • a fever
  • a cough
  • a loss of the sense of smell or taste
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty breathing
  • fatigue
  • muscle or body aches
  • a headache
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked nose
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

A runny nose can occur for many reasons. For example, a person may have a runny nose after breathing cold air or after eating spicy food.

Having a runny nose by itself is generally not a cause for concern. However, a person with a runny nose may want to book a COVID-19 test if they:

  • live in an area with high COVID-19 cases
  • have recently traveled
  • have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19
  • are concerned that they have contracted the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2

A runny nose can also occur due to certain other conditions, such as the following.

Allergies

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies occur when a person’s immune system reacts to a foreign substance.

Symptoms of allergies include:

  • a runny nose
  • watery eyes
  • red eyes
  • itchy eyes
  • a blocked nose
  • an itchy nose
  • sneezing

The American Academy of Ophthalmology notes that having itchy, watery eyes can be a sign that a person has allergies rather than COVID-19.

Additionally, the absence of fever can indicate that a person has allergies instead of COVID-19.

Learn how to differentiate between COVID-19 and allergies here.

The common cold

The common cold can cause symptoms that are similar to those of COVID-19. Symptoms of a cold include:

  • a runny nose
  • sneezing
  • a sore throat

It can be difficult to tell the difference between cold symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms. However, COVID-19 is more likely than a cold to produce a fever, shortness of breath, and body aches.

Flu

COVID-19 and the flu both have very similar symptoms. According to the CDC, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19 based on symptoms alone.

Both the flu and COVID-19 can cause:

  • a fever
  • a cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • a sore throat
  • a runny nose
  • a blocked nose
  • muscle pain or body aches
  • a headache
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

The flu can also cause a loss of taste and smell, though this is a more common symptom of COVID-19.

People can take a COVID-19 test to determine whether they have the flu or COVID-19. Someone who has the above symptoms should self-isolate until they receive the results of their COVID-19 test. If it is positive, they should continue to self-isolate.

A person can get vaccines for both COVID-19 and the flu. However, after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, a person will need to wait 2 weeks before getting any other vaccinations.

Sinusitis

Sinusitis refers to inflammation of the sinuses. Sinuses are hollow areas in a person’s head that connect to the nose. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology notes that sinusitis affects 31 million people in the U.S.

Normally, the sinuses make mucus, which drains out of the nasal cavity. When the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed, however, the mucus is unable to drain, allowing viruses, bacteria, or fungi to multiply and grow. This can lead to a sinus infection.

Symptoms of sinusitis include:

  • postnasal drip, which occurs when mucus runs down the back of the throat
  • mucus that can be green, yellow, or white
  • a blocked nose
  • tooth pain
  • coughing
  • a fever
  • fatigue
  • bad breath

A person may also experience tenderness above or under the eyes and on the bridge of the nose. A headache can also occur at the front of the head.

Although certain symptoms overlap, a person can treat sinusitis using antihistamines, nasal sprays, and nasal rinses.

If these treatments do not ease the symptoms, a person wish want to contact a doctor.

A person can help stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in various ways. The CDC recommends the following:

  • getting a COVID-19 vaccination
  • wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth when in public areas
  • staying at least 6 feet away from people outside the household
  • avoiding crowded areas
  • avoiding poorly ventilated areas
  • washing the hands, or using hand sanitizer if this is not possible, often and thoroughly

The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends that a person self-isolates if they experience even mild COVID-19 symptoms.

If a person is fully vaccinated, they can resume the activities that they took part in before the pandemic began. However, they will still need to follow the guidelines that workplaces and local businesses put in place. Additionally, masks are still necessary on all forms of public transportation.

Even if someone is fully vaccinated, they should still watch for symptoms of COVID-19. If symptoms appear, a person should get a test and self-isolate.

If a person is concerned about their runny nose, they should contact a doctor. A doctor can give advice on whether a person needs a COVID-19 test or not.

If a person experiences any of the following symptoms with COVID-19, they should seek immediate medical attention:

  • difficulty breathing
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • an inability to wake up or stay awake
  • pale, gray, or blue skin, lips, or nail beds
  • confusion

A runny nose can be a symptom of COVID-19. According to recent evidence, a person with a runny nose, a headache, a fever, and a sore throat should get a test for COVID-19, as this combination of symptoms may be due to a delta variant infection.

Many things can cause a runny nose. If a person is concerned about the cause of their runny nose, or if they are experiencing other symptoms of COVID-19, they should contact a doctor.

To prevent the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, it is important to take appropriate measures. Physically distancing from others, wearing masks in public, and washing the hands frequently can all help prevent the transmission of SARS-COV-2.

If a person experiences any serious symptoms of COVID-19, they should seek medical attention immediately.