A sore throat, also known as pharyngitis, is the swelling of the pharynx as a manifestation of an underlying medical condition or a temporary injury. It is more common in children, especially during winter when the humidity and temperatures are low, causing air to dry out the mucous membrane in your throat and cause irritation.
While sore throats are prevalent in viral respiratory diseases such as flu and the common cold, they can also result from bacterial infections and physical injury, as per the National Health Service. It is worth noting that a sore throat is one of the COVID-19 symptoms. However, you can have a sore throat without necessarily testing positive for COVID-19. Here’s some more information on this topic.
How Common a Symptom is a Sore Throat for COVID-19 Patients?
You could be wondering, “Is sore throat a COVID symptom?” While a sore throat could be a symptom of COVID-19, it’s not enough to make the conclusion considering it’s not a common symptom. For instance, so far, only about 5% to 17.4% of COVID-19 patients have been found to have sore throats, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
Given this relatively lower figure, medical professionals should not use a sore throat as the basis for identifying potential COVID-19 patients. Even if you have a sore throat, there's a good chance you'll test negative for COVID-19.
When Could A Sore Throat Be Possibly Because of COVID-19?
A sore throat could be a sign of COVID-19 if it manifests alongside other symptoms. For instance, during the early stages of infection, other than a scratchy throat COVID symptom, you are more likely to feel tired, have a dry cough, and fever. On rare occasions, you may also experience symptoms such as aches and pains, loss of taste and smell, diarrhea, skin rashes, discoloration of toes and fingers, and inflammation of the eye.
In its severe state, COVID-19 can cause difficulty in breathing, chest pains, and loss of speech, per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you experience sore throat and any of these other symptoms, you should consider calling your doctor for a thorough medical checkup.
What If I Came into Contact with a COVID-19 Patient, and Now I Have Sore Throat?
Depending on your body, the incubation period of COVID -19 can be anywhere between 2 to 14 days post-exposure. In other words, you can still have the virus even though you aren’t showing any symptoms. Therefore, in case you have been exposed to COVID-19, and now you have a sore throat, you should self-quarantine for at least 14 days to minimize the chances of infecting others. Since more than 80% of COVID-19 recoveries happen at home with zero medical care, you can also beat the virus by adhering to the following guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Avoiding crowded areas
- Staying hydrated
- Using over-the-counter medications to alleviate symptoms
- Isolating yourself
- Wearing a mask when you are with other people
- Cleaning surfaces thoroughly
- Eating immune-boosting foods
You should also keep monitoring your health to determine when you need thorough medical attention.
If Not COVID-19, How Else Can I Get a Sore Throat?
Other than COVID-19, a sore throat can also be a symptom of conditions such as flu, common cold, strep throat, and allergies. Additionally, you can get a sore throat from burns, irritation from dry air, overstraining your voice, and acid reflux, as reported by Medical News Today.
How Can I Treat Sore Throat at Home Whether or Not It’s Because of COVID-19?
Usually, a sore throat goes away anywhere from 3 to 10 days, although this may depend on the underlying cause. For instance, sore throats resulting from bacterial infections will stick around until you treat the infection. Some of the home remedies you can use to treat a sore include:
- Drinking lots of warm fluids to ease the irritation
- Getting plenty of rest
- Keeping your throat moist by inhaling humidified air
- Gargling with saline water
- Taking over-the-counter medications such as aspirin to relieve the pain
As you utilize these remedies, keep monitoring the sore throat and take note of when medical care will be necessary. For example, if the sore throat persists, it could be a sign of COVID-19 or a bacterial infection, which should prompt you to seek healthcare services.
A sore throat may not necessarily be a symptom of COVID. However, if you have a persistent sore throat, you should seek urgent medical attention, especially if it’s combined with other COVID-19 symptoms.