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A sore throat used to be no big deal, but with COVID-19, everyone becomes alarmed if they have a sore throat or are around someone who does.

Certainly, a sore throat is one of the classic symptoms of COVID-19.  But it can also be related to many other things.  With winter in many states of the U.S., the dry air and lack of humidity can bring on a sore throat. Wearing a mask for a long time can dry out your throat.  You might have caught just a common cold.  Or if you suffer from heartburn or reflux, it can lead to a sore throat and cough. Most sore throats go away on their own within a week.

If you develop a sore throat and also have a temperature of 100.4F or higher, have a cough, trouble swallowing or breathing, or have a rash, these symptoms can indicate strep throat or COVID and warrant a call to your doctor.

To treat your sore throat, drink plenty of fluidsIce chips, warm broth or tea, hard candy, or a saltwater gargle might be soothing.  A hot shower or cool-mist humidifier can also help.

Two teaspoons of honey at bedtime or as needed help coat the throat, especially if you have a cough.  Do not give honey to children under 1 year old because of risk of botulism.  The honey in Hot Toddies is why the drink is helpful (not the alcohol).

Take analgesics such as Tylenol or a NSAID (Motrin, Advil, Ibuprofen, Aleve) as directed on the bottle if you don’t have conditions such as liver, kidney or cardiac disease, or high blood pressure.  If you’re concerned, consult with your doctor.

Lozenges, throat sprays, and gargles can be helpful short-term and can work faster than analgesics.  Vicks VapoDrops (or other menthol lozenges) and Halls Breezers are soothing.  Cepacol, Sucrets, and Chloraseptic spray are numbing.  Cepacol should be avoided in children under 2.  Sugar free lozenges can sometimes cause diarrhea because they contain sorbitol.

Over the counter supplements such as Slippery Elm and Zinc can also help coat the throat and provide relief.

If you have a sore throat, sort out your symptoms: when did they begin, and have you been exposed to others with colds or COVID.  If you’re able to manage your discomfort with some of the suggestions above and things don’t get worse, it might be just a simple sore throat.  If your symptoms persist, get worse, and are accompanied by cough, fever, or trouble breathing, call your doctor.

Be well and stay safe!


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