Before the pandemic, a sore throat was considered a common illness; one that didn’t cause worry or panic. When COVID-19 spread, however, the public’s view of sore throat changed. Now, if you’re experiencing a sore throat, COVID-19 comes to mind.

So when you wake up with a scratchy and sore throat, worrying has become natural. Given the current times, COVID and sore throat seem like the tandem to fear (along with COVID-19’s other symptoms). But a sore throat is just a symptom of COVID-19. In some cases, it may not be caused by the feared disease.

When should you worry about sore throat and COVID-19? This is a question made more pressing by the pandemic, but it shouldn’t cause you to worry or panic.

In this article, we’ll explore sore throat as a symptom of COVID-19, when it’s not the cause to worry and when you should seek medical care.

Is Sore Throat a Sign of COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that COVID-19 symptoms are different for everyone. A sore throat can be a sign of COVID-19, but there is no documentation as to when or where sore throat occurs during the infection.

A study from the World Health Organization, however, reported that up to 14 percent of people with COVID-19 experienced itchy or sore throat. More common symptoms of COVID-19 include dry cough, sudden loss of smell or taste, fatigue and difficulty in breathing.

In the case of respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold, a sore throat is the early warning of an infection. Since you inhale respiratory viruses, these enter your throat and nose first. Early on, they may replicate in the body, which leads to an irritated, itchy or sore throat.

COVID-19, on the other hand, is a respiratory illness with symptoms common to the seasonal flu and common cold, but deadlier. People with COVID-19 experience sore throats, but not as often as they experience other symptoms of the coronavirus.

What Some of the Most Symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 has other more common symptoms. According to the WHO, three of the most common signs include:

  • Dry or wet cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

hand holding a thermometer

Along with sore throat, other less common symptoms of the coronavirus include:

  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Digestive disorders like vomiting, nausea or diarrhea
  • Body pains and aches
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills

If you are experiencing one or more of these signs (plus sore throat), it’s natural to think you have COVID-19. But the only way you can confirm is to have yourself tested. Stay home and get in touch with your doctor to assess your symptoms and get recommendations. If you test positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, you can recover while isolating at home. But if your symptoms worsen, seek medical care immediately.

But in most cases, a sore throat isn’t the primary symptom of COVID-19. In fact, you may not have the coronavirus.

If it’s Not COVID-19, What Else Could it Be?

Most sore throats are triggered by viral infections that are not limited to COVID-19. There are other causes for your sore throat. For instance, if you recently got a new pet and started experiencing a scratchy throat, it’s not COVID-19; it could be allergies to your new pet.

A sore throat can also be a symptom of the following:

Flu

Flu symptoms can either be severe or mild, similar to COVID-19. Apart from a sore throat, other symptoms of flu include a headache, fever, fatigue, muscle aches and cough — all of which can last up to a week or two. The best source of prevention is an annual flu vaccine.

tissues, glasses, and a cup of tea

Common Cold

Similar to the flu and COVID-19, the common cold is caused by a virus. Apart from a sore throat, other symptoms of the flu include cough, congestion, sneezing and runny nose. Colds often last for a few days. Drink more fluids and take a rest to recover quickly. If your cough becomes more severe or if you are experiencing sinus pain, seek medical care immediately.

Strep Throat

With COVID-19, a cold and the flu, all are caused by a virus. On the other hand, strep throat infection is caused by streptococcal bacteria. Apart from a sore throat, other common symptoms of strep throat include swollen and red tonsils, swollen lymph nodes, pus on the tongue and in the back of the throat, chills or fever and a headache.

If you have strep throat, check for exudate on your tonsils; this is a secretion due to the inflammation of your tonsils. Seek medical care immediately, as well.

Allergies

Your immune system reacts to certain foreign substances — animals, chemicals, airborne pollen, drugs or food. As a result, it will trigger an allergic response. Seasonal allergy symptoms include runny nose, puffy and watery eyes, headache, coughs and sore throat.

How Can You Treat Your Sore Throat?

If you are experiencing a mild case of sore throat and don’t suspect COVID-19, here are some remedies you can try at home.

Gargle

Gargle with water several times a day. Add a teaspoon of salt to eight ounces of warm water. Stir the mixture until the salt dissolves and gargle for several seconds before you spit it out. The salt temporarily relieves your scratchy and sore throat.

doctor holding medicine

Anti-inflammatories

These non-prescription medicines (which may already be in your medicine cabinet) are one of the most effective remedies for sore throats. Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen can ease the swelling linked with a sore throat, instantly making you feel better.

But if you have stomach or kidney issues or asthma, do not take ibuprofen or aspirin. Instead, take acetaminophen.

Sprays and Lozenges

Over-the-counter sprays and lozenges stimulate saliva production, which keeps your throat moist. Many lozenges contain menthol, which numbs your throat’s tissues. If your child has a sore throat, give them sprays instead since lozenges pose a choking hazard.

Humidifier or Vaporizer

Eliminate dry air and add moisture to your home by using a humidifier or a cool-mist vaporizer. Breathing in moist air can help soothe your nose and throat’s swollen tissues.

Hydrate

Always drink fluids like water, soups or warm tea to stay hydrated, as well as relieve your irritated throat. Increase the soothing property of your water or tea by adding some honey since it can help in reducing discomfort or swelling. If you want to eat soup, go for chicken soup so you can get the nutrients you need plus the hydration value. Finally, avoid drinks that are too hot to prevent irritating your throat.

Rest

Take plenty of rest when you are sick. A good rest gives your body more time to heal. Get enough sleep and take it easy until you feel better. This is one of the good habits you must practice to keep yourself health.

If You Suspect COVID-19, Don’t Brush It Off

home testing kit

A sore throat in itself is not enough to cause you to worry. As mentioned above, your sore throat may have been triggered by air pollution, allergies or other conditions not COVID-19. If a lone sore throat lasts for more than a week, get in touch with your doctor.

But if you develop other symptoms included in the list of COVID-19, get in touch with your doctor ASAP or get tested for COVID-19. The virus that causes COVID-19 is nearly the same as the virus that triggers the common cold, which causes similar symptoms. But COVID-19 is more severe with long-term effects.

If you’re experiencing a sore throat and other symptoms, don’t brush it off. If you unknowingly have a mild case of COVID-19, you can spread the virus to someone prone to worse infections. Make sure that you’re not putting others at risk if you’re an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19. Also, practice safety precautions like wearing a mask or maintaining social distancing.

The bottom line: using the internet to diagnose your sore throat is not the best idea. If you suspect your sore throat is a sign of COVID-19, talk to your physician immediately.