by Faith Goan, The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy, and Dr. Marc Goldstein, MD, Curist Medical Advisor
Curist delivers FDA-approved medicines to your door at half the price of traditional brands. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy during this time.
Common Symptoms & Signs of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection: Scratchy Throat?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated that most people will experience mild illness from the novel coronavirus (SARS-COV2) and should be able to recover in isolation at home. However, with insufficient testing available for coronavirus, many people are struggling to distinguish between symptoms potentially caused by coronavirus versus other conditions. A commonly searched potential symptom of COVID-19 is scratchy throat, and the post below will analyze that symptom so that you can make a more informed guess as to what you’re experiencing.
According to the CDC, the most severe symptoms of coronavirus (Covid-19) are the following:
- Fever (100.4 degrees fahrenheit or higher)
- Shortness of breath
- Dry cough (No mucus coming up)
Other COVID-19 symptoms can overlap with flu-like symptoms, such as:
- Sore throat
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Body of muscle aches
- Nasal congestion
- New loss of taste or smell
- Nausea or vomiting
Scratchy throat is not typically identified as a symptom of COVID-19. Although scratchy throat has not been called out as a COVID-19 symptom, how can you determine if that discomfort in your throat is a sore throat caused by COVID-19 versus a scratchy throat with a less alarming cause?
Scratchy Throat: Allergies vs. Cold vs. Flu vs. Strep Signs
It may be difficult for people to distinguish between a scratchy throat and a sore throat. Scratchy throats may feel more itchy or irritated. Most people also will attempt to relieve a scratchy throat by coughing or rubbing their tongue against the roof of their mouth generating a clucking sound. On the other hand, sore throats feel painful and people usually feel pain when swallowing. Let’s find out what may be causing these scratchy throats below.
Is My Scratchy Throat a Symptom From Allergies?
One of the main causes of a scratchy, itchy throat is from allergies. Allergens, such as ragweed, cedar or grass pollen, can trigger symptoms in the throat. If you find yourself rubbing your tongue against the roof of your mouth to get that scratchiness, it's most likely an allergy-related scratchy throat. If that is the case, you may be experiencing other allergy symptoms such as: itchy eyes, itchy nose, runny nose, itchy ears, itchy throat, itchy tongue, itchy skin, and sneezing. Allergies may also cause mucus build-up in the back of the throat from post-nasal drip. With the mucus buildup, people can often feel a “scratchy” throat and will attempt to clear their throat. Those with sore throats do not try to clear their throat because it causes more pain.
What Is The Best Allergy Medicine To Treat My Scratchy Throat?
When it comes to self-treating a scratchy throat from allergies, what options do you have? Fortunately, there are plenty of over-the-counter medications available without a prescription from a doctor. Antihistamines are a type of allergy medicine that can treat a scratchy throat by drying some of the mucus that can run at the back of your throat due to irritation from allergies.
Other drug-free self-treatment options for a scratchy throat include:
- Hot tea with honey or lemon
- Warm water and salt gargle
- Humidifier in your home or office
- A steam shower
- Remaining hydrated with lots of water
- Chloraseptic throat spray
If your scratchy throat persists even after trying self-treatment for 1 week, reach out to your healthcare provider for further care.
Is My Scratchy Throat a Cold Symptom vs Allergies?
Another cause of a scratchy or sore throat may be due to a new onset of the common cold. A sore or scratchy throat may be an early symptom of the common cold. Because respiratory viruses are inhaled, they enter the nose or throat first which can lead to itchiness or scratchiness in the throat. A cold is also accompanied with a runny nose, sneezing, or fatigue. A cold may also present with a fever. Symptoms of a cold start between 1-3 days if you get infected, and should last about 7-10 days. Although there is no cure for the common cold, you can take:
- Ibuprofen (Advil)
- Acetaminophen (big brand Tylenol or available at Curist)
- Decongestants (Sudafed)
- Guaifenesin (big brand Mucinex or available at Curist)
- Other over-the-counter products that are recommended by a healthcare provider
If you have a sore throat that presents also with a fever, it could be an early sign of the COVID-19 or another common cold virus or a bacterial infection, and you should speak to a healthcare provider.
If you are not sure whether your symptoms are from a cold or from allergies, check out Common Cold vs Allergies: Symptoms & Treatments.
Is My Scratchy Throat Coming From the Flu?
Symptoms of the flu have a rapid onset and can appear suddenly. The flu shares many symptoms with COVID-19. Fever, chills, and body aches/pains are usually present with the flu. A sore throat may also be a sign of the flu.
Is My Scratchy Throat a Symptom From Strep Throat?
Scratchy throats are not usually a sign of strep throat. Strep throat usually presents with a sore and painful throat due to infection from a particular bacteria called streptococcus pneumonia. People with Strep may also present with fever, pain when swallowing, or swollen lymph nodes. If you or a loved one is presenting with these symptoms, please see a healthcare provider.
What does it Mean If I Have a Scratchy Throat and Cough?
It can be difficult to distinguish if your cough is due to coronavirus, or if it’s from another source. First, you must determine what kind of cough you have. One thing to note is that a symptom of COVID-19 includes a dry cough. What exactly is a dry cough? A dry cough sounds hoarse, and a key indicator is that there is no mucus when you cough. If you cough and you feel mucus coming up your throat, that is classified as a “wet” cough.
If you are experiencing a dry cough with a scratchy throat, it is best to get tested for COVID-19 at a testing center near you. On the other hand, if you are experiencing a scratchy throat with a “wet” cough, you can treat this with a mucus thinner such as guaifenesin.
If you are having trouble determining what kind of cough you have, reach out to your healthcare provider for their recommendation.
The Bottom Line on Scratchy Throat: COVID-19 vs Allergies
Here’s the bottom line when comparing the possible sources of your scratchy throat symptoms:
- Scratchy throat (throat symptoms without pain) is NOT usually a symptom of coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Scratchy throat IS often a symptom of allergies
For more information about coronavirus, please visit the CDC website. As always, if you are not feeling well, please reach out to your medical provider or call 911.