Covid Sore Throat vs Tonsillitis

Covid Sore Throat vs Tonsillitis

Sore throat is a very common symptom that can come many different maladies.  Sore throat is not a diagnosis but a symptom of an underlying condition.  In this article we will compare and contrast sore throat caused by a novel Coronavirus such as Covid-19 and sore throat caused by Tonsillitis.  A more in depth article discussing other common causes of Sore throat in today’s Covid pandemic can be found here: Coronavirus Covid Related Sore Throat

Sore Throat Caused By Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is a condition in which the pharyngeal tonsils become inflamed and possibly infected. The tonsils are positioned at the back of the mouth on both sides. Both viral and bacterial illnesses can cause tonsillitis, but viral infections are more prevalent. Tonsillitis can sometimes be self-limited, which means it doesn’t always require medical attention. Infectious tonsilitis due to bacterial infection, on the other hand, can be severe and necessitate medical attention, including the use of antibiotic medications. Tonsillectomy, the surgical removal of the tonsils, may be indicated if the tonsils repeatedly become infected and cause prolonged difficulties with swallowing or breathing. 

The following are the most common signs and symptoms of Tonsillitis:

  • Throat irritation
  • Odynophagia (pain with swallowing)
  • Scratchy speech pattern
  • Pain with speaking
  • Eating discomfort

Differentiating Symptoms of Covid 19 and Tonsillitis

Viral tonsillitis usually clears without medical intervention in a few weeks. Both viral and bacterial tonsillitis lack many of the COVID symptoms. The most prominent symptoms seen with Covid 19 but NOT with Tonsillitis include:

  • Loss of smell
  • Loss of taste
  • Shortness of breath

When should I See a Doctor?

Although most cases of tonsillitis do not require medical intervention, there are cases that will require treatment. If tonsillitis symptoms have persisted for longer than a week, it may be time to see a physician. Another indication that tonsillitis may need medical treatment is if the tonsils appear to have white or yellow spots or appear to be oozing white or yellow fluid. These symptoms may indicate tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection instead of a virus.  If at any point the following symptoms are present, it may be important to immediately seek emergency medical attention:

Inability to catch one’s breath

Extreme difficulty breathing

Prolonged fever over 101 degrees

Loss of consciousness

Changes in mental status or confusion

Sore Throat and The Delta Variant of Covid -19

While the Delta variant of Covid 19 has been common in other countries for many months, at the time this article was written, it was just starting to get a foothold inside the United States.  Interesingly though, one of the nation’s hot-spots was in Springfield, Missouri.  This variant is affecting a different segment of the population, that previously was unaffected.  Springfield hospitals reported that near 90% of the cases seen were in younger, unvaccinated individuals.  Of specific interest for this article, the symptoms and signs of Covid sore throat that were very prevalent in the original Covid-19 disease ( loss of smell, loss of taste) are NOT common symptoms in this new Delta Variant.  Read more about the outbreak in Southwest Missouri here