Is a sore throat a symptom of COVID-19?

April 1, 2021

Data from millions of ZOE COVID Symptom Study app contributors has shown that a sore throat can be a symptom of COVID-19. Here’s how to spot it and what it feels like.

What is a sore throat like in COVID-19?

Even though a sore throat is a less well-known symptom of COVID-19, it’s an early sign of the disease and reasonably common in children and adults up to the age of 65. 

People using the app have reported having a sore throat that feels similar to what you might experience during a cold or laryngitis. 

COVID-related sore throats tend to be relatively mild and last no more than five days. A very painful sore throat that lasts more than five days may be something else such as a bacterial infection, so don’t be afraid to contact your GP if the problem persists. 

It’s important to remember that sore throats are common and caused by lots of respiratory illnesses such as normal colds. So although many people with COVID-19 experience sore throats, most people with a sore throat will not have COVID-19. 

When does a sore throat happen in COVID-19?

A sore throat is an early symptom of COVID-19, usually appearing in the first week of illness and improving quite quickly. It feels worse on the first day of infection but gets better on each following day.  

On average, a sore throat will last two to three days but can last longer in adults (up to seven days compared to five days for children). If your sore throat is persisting, it’s unlikely to be COVID-19.

How common are sore throats in COVID-19?

Almost half of people who are ill with COVID-19 will experience a sore throat. However, it’s more common in adults aged 18-65 (49%) and than in the elderly (37%) or those under 18 (40%).

Around 11% of people who were ill with COVID-19 reported a sore throat as their only symptom.

What other symptoms of COVID-19 are common alongside a sore throat?

A sore throat is most likely to occur alongside many other symptoms of COVID-19. People reported a sore throat with varying combinations of symptoms, some of which are associated with a higher risk of needing hospital support.

Having a sore throat together with loss of smell (anosmia) is more likely to be COVID-19 than a regular cold. 

Over the age of 16, a sore throat is associated most of the time with fatigue and headaches, and sometimes with a hoarse voice and light-headedness. Across all ages, a sore throat is reasonably common alongside a persistent cough and fever

Depending on your age and sex, you should contact your doctor if you have multiple different symptoms of COVID-19 in the first week of being ill.

What should I do if I have a sore throat and think it might be COVID-19?

If you have a sore throat it could be COVID-19, especially if you have lost your sense of smell, you should:

The NHS has more detailed advice for how to soothe and treat a sore throat.  

Stay safe and keep logging.

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