Is Sore Throat A Symptom Of Covid

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.

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.

Dima Berlin/Getty Images

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.

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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.

Symptoms of COVID-19

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms.

Possible symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. Symptoms may change with new COVID-19 variants and can vary depending on vaccination status. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19. Older adults and people who have underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

Feeling Sick?

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consider the following options:

  • Get tested for COVID-19
  • If you have already tested positive for COVID-19, learn more about CDC’s isolation guidance

When to Seek Emergency Medical Attention

Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID 19:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

If someone is showing any of these signs, call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility. Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.

*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Difference Between Flu and COVID-19

Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. You cannot tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 by symptoms alone because some of the symptoms are the same. Some PCR tests can differentiate between flu and COVID-19 at the same time. If one of these tests is not available, many testing locations provide flu and COVID-19 tests separately. Talk to a healthcare provider about getting tested for both flu and COVID-19 if you have symptoms.

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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 [BiomedCentral.com]; 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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