Schwartz: Is Your Loss of Smell Caused by Allergies or COVID-19?

Updated March 17, 2021

Losing your sense of smell can be worrisome, particularly because it’s a symptom of COVID-19. How can you tell the difference? A loss of smell due to allergies always happens along with nasal congestion, says Stanley A. Schwartz, MD, PhD, UB Distinguished Professor of medicine and pediatrics, who is chief of the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology. Plus, if allergies are the culprit, the loss of smell will come on gradually. The nerves that conduct your sense of smell to your brain are located within your nose, Schwartz notes. When you’re having an allergic reaction, those nerves can become inflamed and “that will cut off your sense of smell,” he explains. Allergies can also cause sinusitis, an inflammation of your sinuses. “Sinusitis can cause your sinuses to fill up with mucus,” Schwartz says, “and that can affect your ability to smell odors.”