COVID-19 Symptoms: Is It A Sore Throat Or Strep?

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U.S. Military/Wikimedia Commons Sore throat is often a symptom while strep throat is typically caused by a virus.

The longer the coronavirus pandemic stretches, the more health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are able to help the public distinguish between viral and bacterial illnesses as well as how COVID-19 symptoms and symptoms of other diseases can mimic each other.

With strep throat always a threat and sore throat being a symptom of coronavirus, it’s important to be able to make the distinction.

A sore throat is in fact often a symptom of both COVID-19 and strep, but it’s not caused by the same thing; one is caused by a bacteria and the other is caused by a virus. Simply put, you can have Strep throat without having coronavirus, but a sore throat might mean you do have coronavirus. It’s also important to note that having COVID-19 does not preclude you from getting strep throat, so it’s important to protect yourself from both.

The Centers for Disease and Control have also outlined some helpful tips to help people distinguish between strep throat and the sore throat of COVID-19. Her’s what you need to know about the two irritating and very different throat issues.

Is Strep Throat A Symptom of COVID-19?

Strep throat has not yet been identified as a symptom of COVID-19 by the CDC, World Health Organization or other medical facilities studying the disease. However, because the illness mimics a sore throat, people can very easily be confused.

In fact, strep throat is not caused by a virus, such as the coronavirus, but it is instead caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus, or group A strep, that infects the throat and tonsils, according to the CDC.

It’s important to note that, unless you have had it before, it’s best for a doctor to diagnose strep. And as mentioned earlier, if you have other symptoms that are not strep-related, your doctor may advise you to get tested for coronavirus since the two illnesses are not mutually exclusive.

Sore Throat vs Strep Throat

The CDC outlined symptoms of a sore throat versus symptoms of strep throat.

The symptoms of a sore throat often include cough, runny nose, hoarseness and a sore throat is also sometimes accompanied by conjunctivitis or “pink eye.” Sore throats are typically caused by viral illnesses, although they can sometimes be caused by a bacterial illness, such as strep.

The common symptoms of strep throat are that the sore throat comes on quickly rather than gradually, there is a fever and the tonsils can become red and swollen with white patches or “streaks of pus,” the CDC reports. Other symptoms of strep include tiny red spots dotting the roof of the mouth, swollen lymph nodes at the front of the neck and sometimes it is accompanied by scarlet fever (or scarlatina). Other symptoms that typically occur in children can include headache, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting (for a list of COVID-19 symptoms in children and toddlers, click here).

Both, of course, can involve incredibly painful swallowing and, like the coronavirus, strep throat is also contagious and can also occur with no symptoms at all, Minnesota’s Department of Health says.

The CDC advises that people go to a hospital if they have any of the following conditions which do not get better over time: difficulty breathing or swallowing, blood in the saliva or phlegm, excessive drooling in young children, dehydration, joint swelling and pain or a rash. Doctors will typically quiz you about your symptoms and sometimes swab your throat to check for the presence of the bacteria.

What If I Have A Sore Throat?

A sore throat is definitely one of the symptoms of coronavirus and according to a July 3 CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, nearly one-third of people (31%) experienced a sore throat when they tested positive for the disease.

If you do have a sore throat, you should examine yourself for other symptoms including fatigue, fever or chills and muscle pain or body aches, as well as symptoms from either/both the respiratory (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, headache, a loss of taste or smell and nasal congestion or runny nose) and gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting or diarrhea) systems, according to the most recent CDC list of symptoms. Emergency warning signs include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, the inability to wake/remain awake, and bluish lips or face.

Remedies for a sore throat, according to the Mayo Clinic, can involve rest, drinking fluids, warm liquids such as broth or warm water, a saltwater gargle, using an air humidifier and taking cough lozenges. Alternative medicines include slippery elm, licorice root and marshmallow root.

Of course, the best remedy to alleviating a COVID-19 related sore threat is recovering from the disease and avoiding reinfection (by following the CDC precautions of frequent handwashing, social distancing and wearing a mask).

What If I Have Strep Throat?

Strep throat lives in the nose and throat and often pass on the infection to others via respiratory droplets spread from coughing or sneezing, the CDC reported. You can get infected by breathing in those droplets, touching infected surfaces, using the same dishes as someone with strep, touching sores on the skin caused by strep (impetigo) or eating food prepared by someone with strep; if any of these events sound recent and your symptoms match those listed earlier, you may have strep throat.

The best way to treat strep throat is with antibiotics that fight the bacteria and the CDC advises people with strep throat to “stay home from work, school, or daycare until they no longer have a fever and have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours.” To protect yourself and avoid spreading the disease, the CDC encourages people to wash their hands often, cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and quickly cleaning or disinfecting dishes and surfaces you have touched/avoid sharing plates and silverware if you are sick.

If you do believe you have strep throat, you can try using some of the home remedies for a sore throat. However, the CDC strongly advises people who believe they have strep to see a doctor and receive antibiotics. Complications of an untreated strep throat infection can take place if the bacteria spreads and can result in abscesses by the tonsils, swollen neck lymph nodes, sinus infections, ear infections, the heart disease rheumatic fever and the kidney disease post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.

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