Is sneezing a symptom of COVID-19?

June 18, 2021

Although COVID-19 vaccines are helping to control the pandemic, no jab provides 100% protection and it’s still possible to get infected.

Thanks to the millions of contributors to the ZOE COVID Study app, we’re building a clearer picture of how COVID-19 symptoms appear in people who get infected after their vaccine.

Although the main symptoms of loss of smell (anosmia), cough, fever, headaches and fatigue remain important, we’ve found that sneezing a lot is a more common sign of infection in those who’ve been vaccinated.

Is sneezing a symptom of COVID-19?

Sneezing is not normally a symptom of COVID-19, and much more likely to be a sign of a regular cold or allergy

Even though many people with COVID-19 might sneeze, it’s not a definitive symptom because sneezing is so common, especially in the warmer months where people might experience hay fever

However, data from the ZOE COVID Study suggests that sneezing more than usual can be a sign of COVID-19 but only in people who’ve been vaccinated.  

When could sneezing be a sign of COVID-19?

You can still catch COVID-19 after being vaccinated. Vaccinated people experience the same kinds of symptoms as unvaccinated people do, but their illness is milder and shorter. We also know that more people have asymptomatic COVID-19 after their jab. 

Interestingly, our data shows that people who had been vaccinated and then tested positive for COVID-19 were more likely to report sneezing as a symptom compared with those without a jab. This suggests that sneezing a lot with no explanation after you’ve been vaccinated could be a sign of COVID-19. 

However, it’s important to remember that the link between sneezing and COVID-19 isn’t very strong so you should stay alert to the 20 symptoms of the disease, whether or not you’ve been vaccinated.

What should I do if I’m sneezing a lot and think it might be COVID-19?

If you’ve been vaccinated and start sneezing a lot without an explanation, you should stay home and get a COVID test, especially if you are living or working around people who are at greater risk from the disease.

Right now, you can only get an NHS COVID test if you have a cough, fever or loss of smell. But you can get a test through the ZOE COVID Symptom Study if you log any of the known symptoms in the app. 

Sneezing is a key way that viruses spread. Try to cover all coughs and sneezes with tissue or the inside of your elbow to minimise the spread of droplets. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth until you wash your hands.

As more people are vaccinated it’s important we keep up with regular lateral flow tests to detect the increasing number of asymptomatic infections. 

Sneezing a lot could be a potential sign that someone vaccinated has COVID-19 and, however mild, should take a test and self-isolate to protect their friends, family and colleagues.

Whether you’ve had both COVID jabs or not, we all still need to be careful to follow the advice on ‘hands, face, space, fresh air’ to protect your own health as well as those around you in your family, workplace and community.

Stay safe and keep logging.

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