Is A Sore Throat A Sign Of Covid

Your sore throat could also be the result of a strep throat infection. According to Goldstein, a strep throat will often leave your lymph nodes swollen and tender, causing pain when you swallow. You may also see redness, white patches, or pus on the back of your throat or tonsils. And for tell-tale coronavirus symptoms, find out The Earliest Signs You Have COVID, According to Johns Hopkins.

Sore Throat Is the Most Common COVID Symptom Right Now

Carla M. Delgado is a health and culture writer based in the Philippines.

Published on July 20, 2022

Nick Blackmer is a librarian, fact-checker, and researcher with more than 20 years’ experience in consumer-oriented health and wellness content.

A young Black man holding his throat

Key Takeaways

  • Data from the ZOE COVID Symptom Study suggests that a sore throat is now the most common symptom reported by people infected with the Omicron subvariant BA.5.
  • While reports of sore throats are on the rise, experts say Omicron BA.5 is not to blame for all of them.
  • A sore throat is a symptom of COVID, no matter which variant. If you have a sore throat and other COVID symptoms or you’ve possibly been exposed, get tested.

The ZOE COVID Symptom Study in the United Kingdom has been tracking reports of COVID-19 cases and symptoms for scientific research. A few months ago, the data from the study suggested that the most common symptom of COVID was either a runny nose or a headache.

Based on reports from 17,500 people who tested positive for COVID last week, the most common symptom now is having a sore throat, followed by a headache and nasal congestion, according to a BBC report.

With the Omicron subvariant BA.5 being one of the dominant COVID strains in the U.K., it’s easy to assume that the spread of the variant is causing the increasing reports of sore throats. However, experts say that is not necessarily the case.

Is BA.5 to Blame for Sore Throats?

Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, told Verywell that rising reports of sore throats do not really have to do with the BA.5 subvariant. Sore throat and headaches are common symptoms of COVID regardless of the variant, and this was true earlier in the pandemic with the Alpha variant.

David Dowdy, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Verywell that the prevalence of sore throat as a COVID symptom might not be caused by BA.5, either.

It’s true that Omicron and its subvariants are more associated with upper respiratory symptoms compared to Delta and previous variants, but Dowdy is hesitant to attribute the increase in sore throat reports to the spread of BA.5.

“More likely, this reflects our own immune systems’ adaptation to the virus, as most people have been exposed to the virus multiple times by now,” said Dowdy. “But I would not read this as a major shift in the type of symptoms people have been experiencing over the past few months.”

Got a Sore Throat? Keep It Cool

While it can also be caused by allergies, a cold, or the flu, a sore throat can certainly be a sign that it’s time to take a COVID test—especially if you think you’ve been exposed.

Whether it turns out to be from COVID or another illness, there are some ways to ease a sore throat at home.

According to Halkitis, the key to sore throat relief is making sure your throat is lubricated, cool, and refreshed—for example, by drinking electrolyte solutions or having an electrolyte popsicle.

Dowdy recommends drinking plenty of fluids and considering over-the-counter (OTC) lozenges or sprays with local anesthetics to help numb the pain.

When to Call Your Provider

Halkitis said it’s important to monitor your symptoms and keep an eye on their trajectory. If they’re not getting better—or getting worse—it’s a sign the illness is progressing. At that point, it’s time to call your healthcare provider to make sure you get treatment to prevent complications.

Dowdy agreed but added that some people may not want to wait that long. “If you are older—70 or above—or have a compromised immune system, you should have a low threshold for going to see a doctor if you get COVID-19.”

For everyone else? Dowdy said you “should treat this as with any other illness. If you are having prolonged fever or chills or ever experience a change in your mental status, chest pain, or difficulty breathing, this would be a reason to seek medical care.”

What This Means For You

A sore throat can be a symptom of COVID-19, regardless of which variant you have. If you have a sore throat and other COVID symptoms, get tested. If you haven’t already, get vaccinated and make sure you’re up to date on your boosters.

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The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

By Carla Delgado
Carla M. Delgado is a health and culture writer based in the Philippines.

This Is How to Tell if Your Sore Throat Is COVID, Doctors Say

A sore throat can be scary, but it can be brought on by a number of different issues.

January 1, 2021

Is A Sore Throat A Sign Of Covid

January 1, 2021

woman, fallen ill is staying at home wrapped in a blanket socially distancing and quarantining herself, feeling her throat hurt and being sore, having a cup of hot tea

Waking up during a pandemic isn’t always easy. Some of the most common experiences—such as a minor, dry throat in the morning—can make you scared that you contracted the virus. As it turns out, there are quite a number of things that can cause a sore throat, which is both fortunate in that it may not be COVID, but also unfortunate as it can be hard to be sure you’re coronavirus-free. According to experts, however, there are a few ways to tell if your sore throat is COVID or something else entirely. Keep reading to find out the signs your sore throat is not COVID, and for more symptoms to look out for, This Is How to Tell If Your Cough Is COVID, Doctors Say.

You feel like you have to clear your throat often.

Man with cough symptom

Marc Goldstein, MD, a board-certified allergist and chief medical advisor at Curist, says it’s possible that your sore throat may just be allergies. In an article for Curist, Goldstein wrote that allergies often induce a post nasal drip, “which triggers throat clearing.” So if you find yourself having to clear your throat often, you could actually be dealing with a sore throat from allergies, not coronavirus. And for more on COVID complications, discover The “Very Strange” Long COVID Symptom Experts Are Warning About.

Taking an antihistamine makes your sore throat feel better.

Mature woman

If you do have allergies, you’re likely to experience other symptoms such as an itchy throat, watery eyes, sneezing, congestion, and a runny nose, says Goldstein. However, these symptoms (including your sore throat) should significantly improve if you take an antihistamine like Claritin or Benadryl. If you don’t feel your symptoms improve at all, you could be dealing with something else, including COVID. And for warning signs to be aware of, If You Have One of These COVID Symptoms, the CDC Says to Call 911.

You have a metallic taste in your mouth.

Man holding mouth in discomfort

If you’re experiencing a metallic taste in your mouth, it could point to another sore throat cause. According to Sheneen Lalani, DO, a board-certified internal medicine doctor working with COVID patients, this is typically present when you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). ae0fcc31ae342fd3a1346ebb1f342fcb

The Mayo Clinic says GERD patients usually experience acid reflux at least twice a week, which can be aggravated by smoking, eating large meals, eating late at night, eating fatty or fried foods, drinking alcohol or coffee, and taking certain medications like aspirin. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Your lymph nodes feel swollen and tender.

Man with sore throat

Your sore throat could also be the result of a strep throat infection. According to Goldstein, a strep throat will often leave your lymph nodes swollen and tender, causing pain when you swallow. You may also see redness, white patches, or pus on the back of your throat or tonsils. And for tell-tale coronavirus symptoms, find out The Earliest Signs You Have COVID, According to Johns Hopkins.

You don’t have any other coronavirus symptoms.

A senior man sits on a couch wrapped in a blanket while touching his forehead and feeling for a fever, suffering from COVID symptoms

Since there are so many things that can cause a sore throat, it can be a challenge to know if yours is COVID-related. Fortunately, you can rest assured that a sore throat alone is not actually that common a coronavirus symptom. A joint report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Chinese researchers found that only 13.9 percent of COVID patients experience a sore throat.

According to Leann Poston, MD, a licensed physician and medical advisor for Invigor Medical, if your sore throat is COVID, you’re likely to experience more common symptoms such as fever, dry cough, fatigue, sputum production, and shortness of breath. However, since there is no way to fully differentiate, you should get a COVID test to make absolutely sure your sore throat is not the virus. And for more on the future of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci Just Said These 3 Things Are About to Make COVID Worse.

Can a Sore Throat Be the Only Symptom of COVID-19? 12 Home Remedies

Can a Sore Throat Be the Only Symptom of COVID-19

Although rare, COVID-19 may present with only sore throat in about 5%-10% of cases. COVID-19-related sore throat is relatively mild and lasts no more than 4-5 days.

Other symptoms that may occur at some point during the infection include extreme fatigue, fever, body ache, shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, loss of sense of smell, brain fog, and memory impairment.

What else can cause sore throat?

Sore throat can also be caused by:

  • Other viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus, Epstein-Barr, mumps, and influenza
  • Bacterial infections, such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pneumococcus, Haemophilus influenzae and Gonococcus
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Pet dander
  • Acid reflux
  • Postnasal drip due to sinusitis
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Since sore throat has many causes, it is important to consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Do I have COVID-19 or strep throat?

In order to confirm whether your sore throat is caused by COVID-19 or strep, your doctor may order tests:

  • Nasal/nasopharyngeal swabs (for COVID-19)
  • Throat swabs (strep throat)

While it may be difficult to differentiate between COVID-19 sore throat and strep throat, there are a few symptoms that point to strep A infection:

  • Sore throat worsens throughout the day and causes severe pain when swallowing.
  • Reddish rash (scarlatina) is found all over the body in the case of scarlet fever.
  • Tonsils are red and swollen, with white patches or streaks of pus.
  • There may be small red spots on the roof of the mouth.
  • Lymph nodes in the neck are swollen.

Although fever, body ache, and stuffy nose are seen in both COVID-19 and strep A infection, the following symptoms are more common in COVID-19:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Inability to maintain tissue oxygen saturation
  • Brain fog
  • Bluish extremities

Can COVID-19 vaccines cause a sore throat?

COVID-19 vaccines can cause flu-like symptoms such as scratchy throat, headache, fever, and body ache. These side effects indicate that your body is developing an immune response that can offer protection from the COVID-19 virus.

Vaccine side effects should go away within 1-2 days, although swollen lymph nodes may persist for up to 10 days. Such symptoms should not deter you from getting the COVID-19 vaccine or booster shots. If you are worried about vaccine-related events, you should consult with your physician.

12 home remedies for a sore throat

  1. Rest: Get plenty of rest and let your sore throat run its course. Avoid spending too much time on your devices as they can disrupt your sleep, which is essential for healing and recovery.
  2. OTC pain medication: Take over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen, to reduce pain and fever.
  3. Hydration: Staying hydrated not only relieves a sore throat but also loosens mucus and reduces sinus congestion. Try to drink about 12-14 glasses of warm water throughout the day. Clear soups and teas can also help.
  4. Humidifiers: Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer in the room so that the air is moist and does not irritate the airways.
  5. Saltwater gargle: Add a teaspoon of salt in a glass of water and gargle. This can help relieve swollen tonsils.
  6. Lozenges: Suck on ice chips, popsicles, or lozenges (do not give lozenges to children under 2 years of age), which can relieve scratchiness of the throat.
  7. Honey, lemon, and turmeric: Taking a spoonful of warm honey with lemon and turmeric can help relieve a sore throat.
  8. Turmeric latte: Warm milk with a pinch of turmeric makes for a tasty and healthy drink that can soothe the throat and has antibacterial properties.
  9. Onion and pepper soup: Onion has decongestant properties. Drinking onion soup sprinkled with pepper may help relieve fever and improve immunity.
  10. Herbal teas: Herbal teas made from licorice, slippery elm, and marshmallow root are popular remedies that may alleviate a sore throat. However, talk to your doctor before taking herbs, especially if you have hypertension, heart disease, or other chronic health conditions.
  11. Sleep positions: Sleeping on your side may help you avoid postnasal discharge from tickling your throat when sleeping.
  12. Avoid smoke: Avoiding smoking, secondhand smoke, strong fumes, and bleach.

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What can I give my child for a sore throat?

Unless your child’s sore throat is due to strep throat or bacterial infection, antibiotics are not required. Rest, hydration, antihistamines, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are likely enough to relieve symptoms in most cases.

Here is what you should keep in mind when giving your child medications for a sore throat:

  • When choosing an over-the-counter medication, opt for acetaminophen in recommended doses.
  • Avoid medications that contain codeine in any form.
  • Avoid giving children aspirin because it may cause rare and serious complications. Giving aspirin to a child under age 16 can cause Reye’s syndrome, a rare but very serious illness that damages the liver and brain.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the appropriate doses.
  • If your child gets sore throat frequently, talk to your doctor about the possibility of childhood asthma.

When to see a doctor for sore throat

Talk to your doctor if you:

  • Test positive for COVID-19
  • Have severe pain and fever over 101 F for 2 or more days
  • Have difficulty swallowing, talking, or sleeping due to swollen tonsils or adenoids
  • Experience shortness of breath or rash
  • Have compromised immunity due to diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus, cancer, steroid medications, or ongoing chemotherapy

How is sore throat treated?

If you test positive for COVID-19, self-isolation will be advised along with symptomatic treatment. Your doctor may initiate antiviral medications (favipiravir, ritonavir and lopinavir) on a case-to-case basis, although most people recover on their own. In the case of severe infection with poor tissue oxygenation and severe lung involvement, your doctor may advise hospitalization and intravenous antivirals and supportive oxygen.

If you test positive for strep throat, your doctor will start you on a course of antibiotics along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

If the sore throat is due to tonsillar abscess or tonsillar stone, your doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy (surgical removal of the tonsils).

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population []; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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