A very painful sore throat is known as an early sign of COVID-19, an infectious disease that primarily affects the respiratory system. However, it’s also one of the common symptoms of other illnesses like strep throat, the flu, or severe allergies. Knowing the cause of your sore throat can help your doctor determine the most effective course of treatment.
How do you know if your sore throat is caused by COVID-19 or if it’s something else? Learn more about what causes sore throat and how it can be treated.
What Aare the symptoms of COVID sore throat?
Almost half of the people who get COVID-19 experience a sore throat. These are the most common symptoms of COVID-19 sore throat:
- Itching or irritation in the throat
- Pain when talking or difficulty swallowing
- A hoarse voice
Your sore throat may be accompanied by these other symptoms of COVID-19:
- Runny nose
- Fever or chills
- Dry cough
- Body aches
- Loss of smell and/or taste
- Difficulty breathing
The feeling of throat irritation and pain varies from person to person. Some COVID-19 patients with sore throat report that their throat feels dry or full. However, others have reported their COVID-19 sore throat as feeling like the worst sore throat they have ever had. Some compared the sensation to stabbing, experiencing constant and razor-sharp pain.
Regardless of the degree of pain you experience, keep an eye out for these symptoms and inform your doctor if you have them, especially if they worsen.
How long does a sore throat caused by COVID last?
COVID-related sore throats can last anywhere from five days to two weeks, depending on the person. This COVID symptom typically starts getting better a week after you first experience symptoms.
If your sore throat hasn’t gotten better after a week or starts to worsen, consult your doctor. Continuing to experience symptoms long after your initial illness may be a sign that you have long COVID-19, which puts you at a higher risk of developing conditions like heart problems.
What can be the cause of a sore throat?
Apart from a COVID-19 infection, these are some potential causes of a sore throat:
- Irritation from air pollution, smoking, or exposure to secondhand smoke
- Viruses, such as those that cause the common cold or the flu
- Allergic reactions caused by allergens like pollen and dander
- Infections of the bacterial group A strep, which causes strep throat
When to worry about a sore throat
Multiple health conditions can cause a sore throat, some of which may be severe. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, it’s time to consult your doctor about your sore throat:
- A sore throat that lasts more than five days
- High fever
- Blood in your saliva or phlegm
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Swollen tonsils or white patches on your tonsils
- Weight loss
- Joint swelling
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Even if these symptoms are not caused by COVID-19, they may be a sign of a severe viral or bacterial infection like strep throat. Antibiotics can treat a bacterial infection but will not treat a severe sore throat caused by a viral infection. Consult your doctor so they can take a swab test and check your other symptoms to determine the proper treatment.
How can a sore throat due to COVID be treated?
Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infection, and they won’t be an effective treatment for sore throat due to COVID-19. However, you can try one or a combination of the following treatments below for relief of your COVID-19 sore throat:
- Antiviral treatment: In COVID-19 cases with more severe symptoms, doctors may prescribe antiviral drugs like remdesivir or nirmatrelvir. These are available by prescription only.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers: Some OTC medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can temporarily relieve your throat and sinus pain. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any OTC medicine for your COVID-19 sore throat, as a specific medication may be safer for you to take than others.
- Gargling with salt water: Mix half a teaspoon of salt into eight ounces of warm water until the salt dissolves. Take a sip and gargle this mixture for at least 10 seconds. Repeat this until your pain alleviates. This simple home remedy has been found by some studies to effectively soothe a sore throat.
- Warm liquids: Drinking warm or hot liquids like tea and soup can soothe an itchy or painful throat. Just make sure that what you are ingesting is not too hot, as this may burn your throat and worsen your throat pain.
- Cold liquids: While some people argue that warm liquids are better for a sore throat, there’s actually no evidence of one being better than the other for pain relief. Cold liquids can reduce inflammation and throat swelling, so try sipping on cold liquids or sucking on ice chips if warm liquids don’t work for you.
- Cough drops or sprays: OTC sprays or lozenges may also relieve a sore throat. Some of these sprays and lozenges contain menthol or benzocaine to soothe pain and irritation. Note that sprays may be harder to use and lozenges may present a choking hazard.
- Honey: Honey has been found by several studies to alleviate upper respiratory system symptoms such as cough and sore throat. It is generally safe for adults and children over a year old to take.
- Exposure to moist air: Another popular home remedy for a sore throat is breathing in steam or using a mist vaporizer or humidifier to increase moisture in the air. These can help alleviate a dry throat and other COVID-19 symptoms like congestion or a cough.
- Avoiding throat irritants: Giving your throat some much-needed rest can help reduce the pain. Avoid yelling or talking excessively so you don’t strain your throat muscles. You should also avoid smoking or exposure to air pollution, as these can dry out your throat.
A sore throat is a common symptom of COVID-19, but it ‘is also a symptom of many other viral and bacterial illnesses. To be absolutely sure, you can take an at-home test to rule out COVID-19. You can ease your sore throat with mentholated lozenges, OTC pain relievers, or home remedies like saltwater gargles.
If your sore throat and other COVID symptoms persist a week or more after your infection, this may be a sign that you have long COVID-19 or a more serious infection. Talk to your doctor if you still have a sore or scratchy throat so they can prescribe treatments for symptom relief.
If you want to know more about COVID-19 and how to overcome the difficulties you have been experiencing due to long COVID, talk to us. Learn more about our offer and support through our Post-COVID community today.