Can Allergies Make You Lose Your Sense of Taste and Smell?

Loss of taste and smell can be a symptom of many different medical conditions, including allergies, COVID-19, and upper respiratory infections. It can also be a symptom of some neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease.

However, the symptoms that occur in addition to your loss of taste and smell can be a clue in determining the underlying cause. Learn more about the loss of taste and smell from allergies, and how to manage these symptoms, in this article.

Man smelling lemon

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Why Allergies Cause a Loss of Taste and Smell

Loss of smell (anosmia) and loss of taste (ageusia) can occur with allergies. These two senses are closely linked. Your sense of smell begins when small particles reach nerves high up in your nose. These nerves then send information to your brain, which determines what the smell is.

Your sense of smell also impacts your ability to fully taste things. When you chew food, aromas are released through the roof of your mouth and into your nose. These aromas are detected by nerves that interpret the information and enhance the flavor of your food. If your sense of smell is decreased, your taste will also be negatively affected.

Allergies develop when your body mistakenly attacks harmless substances that enter your body. These substances, called allergens, often include pet dander, pollen, mold, dust, and other environmental triggers. Your immune system produces chemicals that lead to allergy symptoms, such as:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Skin rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Itchy eyes and nose

Loss of smell and taste with allergies is caused by nasal congestion. If you aren't able to breathe through your nose, particles can't reach the nerves in your nose, and the information can't get to your brain. This is also why your sense of taste is affected.

How to Identify the Cause of Loss of Smell and Taste

It can be difficult to determine the cause of your loss of smell and taste without a visit to your doctor, but there are some clues that might indicate whether it's related to your allergies.

If you have allergies, you'll have more symptoms than just a loss of smell and taste. In addition, allergy symptoms can last for months or come and go with the change of seasons. Other illnesses tend to last for shorter amounts of time.

Upper respiratory infections typically last about one week. These conditions also cause fever, which is not a symptom of allergies.

Is It COVID-19?

Loss of smell and taste are common symptoms of COVID-19. Other symptoms of COVID-19 that are not present in allergies are fever, chills, headaches, and body aches.

Allergies and respiratory conditions aren't the only causes of loss of taste and smell. Other causes include:

  • Medications: There are hundreds of medications that can affect your ability to taste and smell. Some have their own metallic or bitter taste, while others interfere with your body's ability to interpret sensory information correctly.
  • Smoking: Some research suggests that smoking cigarettes can negatively affect your sense of smell and your ability to taste. These changes might be worse—they last longer and are more frequent—in people who smoke. However, more research is needed in this area.
  • Cancer treatments: Your sense of smell and taste can be negatively affected if you're receiving cancer treatments. Chemotherapy can make you more sensitive to smells and alter your taste buds, but these side effects usually resolve within a few months after treatment ends. Radiation treatment can cause loss of smell and taste, particularly if your cancer is in your head or neck. If taste buds are damaged, these changes can be permanent.

How to Regain Your Smell and Taste Senses

There are several treatments available to help relieve allergy symptoms. Some target your immune system, which drives the allergic reaction, while others treat congestion in your nose to improve your senses of smell and taste. Treatments include:

  • Medications: Allergies are often treated with antihistamines—medications that block chemicals released by your immune system that are causing your symptoms. Decongestants can also be used to help thin mucus in your nose, making it easier to breathe.
  • Nasal spray: Medicated nasal sprays should be used with caution. While they are effective for reducing congestion, they can have the opposite effect when they're used for more than a few days in a row. This side effect is called rebound congestion.
  • Nasal irrigation: Rinsing your nasal passages can help remove debris and excess mucus. Clearing your airways makes breathing easier, which can improve your sense of smell and taste. Nasal irrigation is often performed with simple devices, such as a neti pot.

When to See a Doctor

If you notice a loss of smell and taste, see your doctor to determine the underlying cause.

The most effective treatment for allergies is avoiding your triggers. Testing can be performed by an allergist to help identify your specific allergens. The doctor can also prescribe stronger allergy medications or recommend allergy shots if your symptoms are severe.

A Word From Verywell

Allergies are a nuisance, but they are also highly treatable. Being proactive in the treatment of your allergies can help you find relief sooner rather than later. If over-the-counter medications aren't effective, talk to your doctor about other options. Consider allergy testing to help identify your triggers.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between seasonal allergies and COVID-19?

    Seasonal allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to harmless substances in your environment, such as pollen, mold, and fungi. COVID-19 is an infection caused by a virus.

  • What can you do if you lose your smell and taste because of COVID-19?

    Although it takes time, your sense of smell and taste will likely return to normal on their own after you've had COVID-19. Some people's symptoms improve with exposure to strong smells—a treatment called smell training. In rare cases, these changes are permanent.

  • Is the loss of smell and taste a common COVID-19 symptom?

    Yes. Most people with COVID-19 experience changes in their ability to smell or taste.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cedars-Sinai. Smell and taste disorders.

  2. National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Smell disorders.

  3. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. Smell loss related to colds, allergies, sinus issues, and COVID-19.

  4. Schiffman SS. Influence of medications on taste and smell. World J Otorhinolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018;4(1):84-91. doi:10.1016%2Fj.wjorl.2018.02.005

  5. Da Ré AF, Gurgel LG, Buffon G, Moura WER, Marques Vidor DCG, Maahs MAP. Tobacco influence on taste and smell: systematic review of the literature. Int Arch Otorhinolaryngol. doi:10.1055%2Fs-0036-1597921

  6. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Taste and smell changes from cancer and cancer treatment.

By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT
Aubrey Bailey is a physical therapist and professor of anatomy and physiology with over a decade of experience providing in-person and online education for medical personnel and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injury, neurologic diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy living.