This Is How to Tell if Your Sore Throat Is COVID, Doctors Say

Kali Coleman
·3 min read

Waking up during a pandemic isn't always easy. Some of the most common experiences—such as a minor, dry throat in the morning—can make you scared that you contracted the virus. As it turns out, there are quite a number of things that can cause a sore throat, which is both fortunate in that it may not be COVID, but also unfortunate as it can be hard to be sure you're coronavirus-free. According to experts, however, there are a few ways to tell if your sore throat is COVID or something else entirely. Keep reading to find out the signs your sore throat is not COVID, and for more symptoms to look out for, This Is How to Tell If Your Cough Is COVID, Doctors Say.

You feel like you have to clear your throat often.

Man with cough symptom
Man with cough symptom

Marc Goldstein, MD, a board-certified allergist and chief medical advisor at Curist, says it's possible that your sore throat may just be allergies. In an article for Curist, Goldstein wrote that allergies often induce a post nasal drip, "which triggers throat clearing." So if you find yourself having to clear your throat often, you could actually be dealing with a sore throat from allergies, not coronavirus. And for more on COVID complications, discover The "Very Strange" Long COVID Symptom Experts Are Warning About.

Taking an antihistamine makes your sore throat feel better.

Mature woman's morning routine - holding medicine and water. Photo of Mature woman with pill and glass of water at home. Mature woman sitting on bed, suffering from depression. Woman takes pill with omega-3 and holding a glass of fresh water.
Mature woman's morning routine - holding medicine and water. Photo of Mature woman with pill and glass of water at home. Mature woman sitting on bed, suffering from depression. Woman takes pill with omega-3 and holding a glass of fresh water.

If you do have allergies, you're likely to experience other symptoms such as an itchy throat, watery eyes, sneezing, congestion, and a runny nose, says Goldstein. However, these symptoms (including your sore throat) should significantly improve if you take an antihistamine like Claritin or Benadryl. If you don't feel your symptoms improve at all, you could be dealing with something else, including COVID. And for warning signs to be aware of, If You Have One of These COVID Symptoms, the CDC Says to Call 911.

You have a metallic taste in your mouth.

Man holding mouth in discomfort
Man holding mouth in discomfort

If you're experiencing a metallic taste in your mouth, it could point to another sore throat cause. According to Sheneen Lalani, DO, a board-certified internal medicine doctor working with COVID patients, this is typically present when you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

The Mayo Clinic says GERD patients usually experience acid reflux at least twice a week, which can be aggravated by smoking, eating large meals, eating late at night, eating fatty or fried foods, drinking alcohol or coffee, and taking certain medications like aspirin. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Your lymph nodes feel swollen and tender.

Man with sore throat
Man with sore throat

Your sore throat could also be the result of a strep throat infection. According to Goldstein, a strep throat will often leave your lymph nodes swollen and tender, causing pain when you swallow. You may also see redness, white patches, or pus on the back of your throat or tonsils. And for tell-tale coronavirus symptoms, find out The Earliest Signs You Have COVID, According to Johns Hopkins.

You don't have any other coronavirus symptoms.

A senior man sits on a couch wrapped in a blanket while touching his forehead and feeling for a fever, suffering from COVID symptoms
A senior man sits on a couch wrapped in a blanket while touching his forehead and feeling for a fever, suffering from COVID symptoms

Since there are so many things that can cause a sore throat, it can be a challenge to know if yours is COVID-related. Fortunately, you can rest assured that a sore throat alone is not actually that common a coronavirus symptom. A joint report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Chinese researchers found that only 13.9 percent of COVID patients experience a sore throat.

According to Leann Poston, MD, a licensed physician and medical advisor for Invigor Medical, if your sore throat is COVID, you're likely to experience more common symptoms such as fever, dry cough, fatigue, sputum production, and shortness of breath. However, since there is no way to fully differentiate, you should get a COVID test to make absolutely sure your sore throat is not the virus. And for more on the future of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci Just Said These 3 Things Are About to Make COVID Worse.