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Health/Science/Tech

What Does Sore Throat Have To Do With COVID-19?

Woman holding throat.
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The CDC lists sore throat as a symptom of COVID-19, but those testing positive for the virus usually have other symptoms as well.

Sore throat is a common ailment, but it’s also now included among symptoms for COVID 19.

KERA's Sam Baker talked with Dr. Bradley Berg, section chief of Pediatrics at Baylor, Scott and White in Austin/Round Rock, about whether sore throat is now more cause for concern.

Interview Highlights:

How is sore throat associated with COVID -19?

A lot of respiratory viruses will infect tissues of the throat and make them inflamed and sore. In addition, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 causes a lot of respiratory symptoms, such as congestion and runny nose, and that mucus running down the back of the throat also irritates the throat and will make it red.

Does sore throat alone warrant a test for COVID-19?

Usually not most of the time. Even if the sore throat is due to COVID-19, the recommendations are:

  • If it's mild, if you're not having a lot of other symptoms or maybe a little runny nose or cough, you can pretty much treat it at home.
  • Most of the time, the viruses that cause sore throats will self resolve in four or five days without treatment.
  • If you're having higher fevers, a bad sore throat or the sore throats lasting for more than four or five days, you should go in and get checked and make sure you don't need additional treatment.

Usual causes of sore throat

  • The vast majority of sore throats are caused by viruses. They're particles that you breathe in through your mouth, or you cough on your hands and you touch your face and they invade your body.
  • Other causes a sore throat can be allergies.
  • There are some other infectious causes such as strep throat. Strep throat is caused by bacteria and that causes a severe sore throat.
  • And then you can also get mono (mononucleosis), which causes a lot of symptoms that are very similar to COVID such as extreme fatigue, bad sore throat, high fevers, swollen glands, body aches. It doesn't usually have the respiratory component though of the COVID.

Treatment of sore throat

Most sore throats are self-resolving. The best way to treat it is just conservatively at home. You can do that by gargling with warm water with salt, drinking warm tea, which soothes the throat or taking ibuprofen or Tylenol just to help with the pain. And then if the sore throats lasting longer though, or more severe where you can't drink or eat, then you may have to go in and get it checked out and get antibiotics.

The best way to prevent sore throat

Following all the guidelines for prevention of COVID-19:

  • Most sore throats with the exception of allergies are going to be transmitted by contact or by respiratory droplets, from somebody around you being sick. So being really diligent about washing your hands, especially before eating meals and making sure you cover your mouth, don't spread those droplets to other people.
  • If somebody around you is coughing, staying away from them, asking them to cover their mouth or turning in the opposite direction so that those droplets are not directly infecting you.
  • Masks really been shown to be exceptionally good at preventing the spread of the respiratory droplets, primarily because the person who's wearing the mask doesn't breathe in as many respiratory droplets from other people.

RESOURCES:

Baylor, Scott and White: What’s Causing Your Sore Throat

CDC: Sore Throat

MedlinePlus: Sore Throat

Harvard Medical School: COVID 19 Basics

A Doctor Explains Why You Can Relax About A Summer Sore Throat 

Treating Coronavirus at Home

Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at sbaker@kera.org. You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.

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