It’s a feeling all too familiar to most of us — that scratchy, uncomfortable sensation in your throat that alerts you that you may be getting sick. But is your sore throat just seasonal allergies? A common cold? Or could it be a sore throat from the flu?
Consider the time of year. During flu season, which lasts from October through May, a sore throat can signal more than just a cold. For that reason, it’s important to understand sore throat flu symptoms and sore throat causes.
Sore Throat Flu Symptoms
Also known as pharyngitis, a sore throat happens when the tissues of the pharynx (the part of the throat behind the mouth) become inflamed. The symptoms of the common cold and the flu are similar, making it difficult to differentiate between the two. But flu symptoms are generally more severe and develop much faster.
Sore throat flu symptoms are often accompanied by a fever or chills, headache, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, and fatigue. If your symptoms start to add up, then it’s time to see your health care provider.
If you want to avoid a sore throat from flu — and all the other unpleasant symptoms that come along with the illness — we recommend getting a flu shot annually. It’s quick, affordable, and the surest way to stay healthy during flu season.
Sore Throat Causes
Most sore throats that accompany a cold or the flu are caused by a virus. Occasionally, sore throat causes can include bacterial infection, one example of this is strep throat.
Symptoms of strep throat are like those of an ordinary sore throat, but here are signs it could be strep:
- White patches on the tonsils or back of the throat
- Just a sore throat without a cough or cold symptoms such as runny nose or congestion
- Swollen lymph nodes (under your jaw or in the neck)
- Red and swollen tonsils sometimes accompanied by white patches or streaks
- Tiny red spots on the back of the roof of the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Nausea or vomiting; children sometimes complain of a tummy ache
- A rash, known as Scarlet Fever
If these symptoms last more than two days, you should see a healthcare provider for a strep test, which is a simple throat swab.
This is important, as strep throat can sometimes lead to rheumatic fever. If you test positive for strep, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics for treatment and to help reduce spreading the illness.
In addition to cold and flu viruses and bacterial infections, sore throat causes can include dry winter air, which irritates the throat, and allergies, which can cause inflammation and irritation.
Here are some ideas for treating a sore throat at home:
- Using a humidifier
- Avoiding smoke and other irritants
- Limiting talking, which may lead to laryngitis
- Trying a throat lozenge
- Drinking lots of fluids
- Taking ibuprofen or other pain relievers
- Sucking on an ice pop
We have more suggestions for at-home sore throat remedies here.
But if you suspect you have a sore throat from flu, then find your nearest GoHealth Urgent Care for evaluation and testing.
No appointment is necessary, and you can save your spot online — which means faster relief from your sore throat symptoms.