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'Does a Sore Throat Mean I'm Sick?'

man sore throat
February 19, 2021
From the WebMD Archives

With everyone a bit hyperaware of their physical symptoms these days, you might take note of small things you previously would have brushed off. Like that tickle in your throat. Does a sore throat mean you’re sick?

Not necessarily.

Sure, a sore throat can be a sign of illness, such as a cold, strep throat, or even COVID-19. But a sore throat by itself doesn’t necessarily mean much. Many things can cause your throat to feel dry, scratchy, or sore, such as:

  • Acid reflux, especially if you wake up with a sore throat that goes away during the day
  • Allergies, including pet dander and dust mites
  • Coughing or frequent throat-clearing
  • Dry air (especially during furnace season)
  • Pollen, which persists in some areas year-round
  • Postnasal drip that’s unrelated to allergies

Basically, if your only symptom is a sore throat, it may not be anything to get worked up about.

Now, if your sore throat happens along with other symptoms like the ones below, then it may be time to phone your doctor’s office to find out what to do.

  • Congestion in the lungs or sinuses
  • Discolored patches or spots in the back of the mouth/upper throat
  • Fever
  • General malaise (generally feeling unwell, like you have the flu)
  • Headache
  • Severe fatigue
  • Swollen tonsils

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms with a sore throat, your doctor may direct you to be tested.

But if your sore throat occurs in isolation, then try some home remedies to feel better:

  • Take antacids or sleep on a wedge pillow if you think acid reflux is causing your sore throat.
  • Groom your pets frequently (and wear a mask while doing it to keep dander out of your nasal passages).
  • Use non-medicated lozenges to moisten your throat and reduce coughing and throat-clearing.
  • Crank up a humidifier to keep your indoor air more comfortable for breathing.

If your sore throat doesn’t go away within a few days despite your best efforts, then it’s time to call your doctor’s office for a diagnosis.



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