When you’re clutching at your throat because it feels raw, scratchy and painful, and it hurts just to swallow, all you want is to feel better. Along with “why me?,” you’re likely asking yourself, is this part of a cold?; strep throat?; or worse–a sign of coronavirus? Below, we walk you through some possible causes for sore throat, and the specific symptoms to watch for. During the pandemic, it’s important to pay attention to your health and to know when to seek care.
Common Causes of Sore Throat
- Cold and Flu: The common cold and seasonal influenza share many symptoms, including that dreaded sore throat. If you’re suffering from a cold or the flu, you may also experience fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, runny nose, sneezing, and congestion. Colds are usually milder than flu, and are more likely to include a runny or stuffy nose. Protect yourself with an annual flu vaccine, and know we are here to provide care if you do become ill.
- COVID-19: Like the common cold and flu, COVID-19 is a viral, respiratory illness that can indeed cause sore throat. However, sore throat doesn’t seem to be a particularly common symptom of the novel coronavirus. One study, commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), found that out of more than 55,000 confirmed cases, only 13.9 percent of people reported a sore throat. Get a COVID-19 test if you’ve been around someone who tested positive, or are exhibiting other COVID-19 symptoms, such as cough, difficulty breathing, and/or fever, along with chills, muscle pain, headache, and any new loss of taste or smell.
- Strep throat: Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat and tonsils, caused by streptococcal bacteria. Look for red, swollen tonsils and throat; white spots or streaks on the tongue or back of your throat; and swollen lymph nodes in your neck. Strep throat can also make it difficult to swallow and cause headache, fever and chills. An in-clinic strep test or throat culture can determine if strep is the cause of your sore throat. If so, our providers can prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection.
- Allergies: When your immune system overreacts to a foreign substance (e.g. a food, drug, chemical, animal dander, or pollen), it can trigger an allergic response. Severe reactions are possible, but for common allergies, you’ll likely experience itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, cough, congestion and headache. A post-nasal drip can lead to an allergy-induced sore throat.