Is a Sore Throat a Common Symptom of COVID-19?


A sore throat, also known as pharyngitis, is an irritation of the back of the throat from an underlying medical condition or a temporary injury. It is more common in children, especially when the humidity and temperatures are low, causing air to dry out the mucous membranes in the throat and cause irritation.

While sore throats are commonly seen in viral respiratory infections like the flu and the common cold, they can also result from bacterial infections and physical injury, as per the National Health Service.

Of note, a sore throat is also one of the symptoms of the Delta variant of COVID-19. However, you can have a sore throat without testing positive for COVID-19.

Here’s some more information on this topic.

Is Sore Throat a Common Symptom for COVID-19 Patients?

Yes. A sore throat, a less common symptom of the initial strains of SARS-CoV-2 (found only in 5% to 17.4% of infected patients), has become one of the common symptoms of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2. Though common, the symptom is the 4th most common among fully vaccinated individuals, 3rd among the partially vaccinated, and 2nd among the unvaccinated, according to the ZOE COVID study.

If you test negative for COVID-19 but continue having a sore throat, other common causes can be pursued.

If It’s 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.

  • Flu: The influenza virus enters through the nose, eyes, or mouth, irritates and inflames the tissues at the back of the throat, and causes a sore throat.
  • Common Cold: A cold virus inflames the mucous membranes in your throat, leading to a sore throat.
  • Strep Throat: This bacterial infection can cause inflammation and pain in the throat, often resulting in a severe sore throat and sudden fever.
  • Hot foods or liquids: Swallowing hot temperature foods or beverages can cause a sore throat.
  • Irritation from Dry Air: Breathing dehumidified air can make your throat feel rough and scratchy.
  • Overstraining Your Voice: Prolonged speaking, singing, or shouting can irritate and inflame your larynx (voice box), leading to a sore throat.
  • Acid Reflux: Acid reflux (when the acid from your stomach flushes up into the back of your throat) can irritate the back of the throat, causing pain.

When Could a Sore Throat Be COVID-19?

During the early stages of infection, you are more likely to feel tired, achy, have a dry cough, head congestion, and fever. You may also experience symptoms such as loss of taste and smell, diarrhea, skin rashes, discoloration of toes and fingers, and inflammation of the eye. If you experience a sore throat and any of these other symptoms, you should seek medical attention for testing immediately and go to the emergency room if having any shortness of breath.

How Common Are Breakthrough Infections?

Though delta variant remains contagious and dangerous among unvaccinated people (97% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated as of July 22, 2021), fully vaccinated people can also develop asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic COVID (breakthrough infections). However, vaccine breakthrough cases are rare. According to the CDC, 178 million people in the US are fully vaccinated as of September 13, 2021, but only 15,790 patients are infected (0.008%). Among them, 3,040 patients (0.001%) have died.

Though people with breakthrough infections are at less risk for death, they can still spread the infection to others, including children and those who are not vaccinated.

So, if you have a persistent sore throat or sore throat in combination with other symptoms of COVID-19, it is recommended to get a medical evaluation. For prompt evaluation, schedule a video visit here. We will assess your symptoms to determine the possibility of taking a COVID-19 test that we will do on our premises.

Category: Sore Throat


Family Care Centers Medical Group

Family Care Centers Medical Group has provided quality primary care and urgent care services to the residents of Orange County since 1982. Our team of experienced and dedicated healthcare professionals is committed to providing exceptional medical care in a caring and compassionate environment. At our urgent care centers at Irvine, Fountain Valley, and Costa Mesa, we offer immediate attention to minor medical emergencies, including cuts, bruises, scrapes, sprains, strains, broken bones, sore throats, flu, and workplace injuries. Our primary care doctors at Irvine, Fountain Valley, and Costa Mesa centers are ready to take care of all your primary healthcare needs, like the flu shot, physical examination, and treatment for acute or chronic illnesses.

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