A SORE throat could be the main symptom of coronavirus.
The Zoe Covid study in the UK collated the top 20 symptoms reported in recent weeks by 17,500 people who tested positive, with 58% of people reporting a sore throat. A headache came next (49%), followed by a blocked nose, a cough with no phlegm, and a runny nose (all at 40%).
It feels different from the start of the pandemic, when symptoms like a fever and a loss of smell were seen as some of the most characteristic signs of Covid.
Professor Tim Spector, Zoe scientific co-founder and lead scientist on the Zoe Health Study, said: “Covid is still rampant in the population. So much so that if you have any cold-like symptoms at the moment it’s nearly twice as likely to be Covid as a cold.
Even if you don’t have Covid, a sore throat can strike at any time - perhaps you’ve come down with a summer cold, or been over-exerting your throat at a festival.
While a scratchy throat isn’t the end of the world - if it progresses to anything worse and you have concerns, consult your GP - it can still be pretty painful and annoying.
Is there anything you can do at home to ease a sore throat?
“Salt water is a simple home remedy anyone can try,” advises Dr Deborah Lee of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy (doctorfox.co.uk).
“Simply mix one teaspoon of salt with a few inches of warm water, stir to dissolve, and gargle slowly.
This tip coincides nicely with the summer, because chances are you’ve already stocked up on ice lollies to help keep yourself cool. But how can it help with a sore throat?
“Lowering the body temperature has been shown in many medical studies to reduce inflammation,” suggests Lee.
“The effect of the cold lowers the production of proinflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers that give the signals for inflammation) and other inflammatory markers. Less inflammation means less discomfort.”
Lee cites a 2020 review of 14 clinical studies which “concluded that honey is useful in treating symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections”, she says.
“Simply mix two teaspoons of honey with hot water, stir to dissolve, and sip it slowly. Or you can mix it with lemon juice, to also give a boost of vitamin C.”
This one might not be the most appealing thing to do in a heatwave, but it could help ease your sore throat.
Lee says cranking up the temperature of your shower “helps moisturise the throat and nasal passages through inhalation of the steam”.
“You may want to humidify the house too, which you can do simply by positioning bowls of water around the room, especially on or near radiators.”
If you have any menthol throat lozenges knocking about, now’s the time to dig them out.
“Menthol is made by combining eucalyptus and peppermint oils, and can soothe a sore throat and help reduce a cough,” explains Lee.
“It works by desensitising specific pain receptors in the back of the throat, resulting in numbness.”