Should I Get Tested for COVID-19 if I Have a Sore Throat?

Reviewed on 2/23/2022
Should I Get Tested for COVID-19 if I Have a Sore Throat
If you have a sore throat along with symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, you should get tested for COVID-19

If you have a sore throat along with symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, you should get tested for COVID-19 to avoid spreading the infection, receive proper treatment, and prevent complications.

Even after taking the necessary precautions, COVID-19 can cause significant mental and physical consequences. Much is still unknown about the virus, so it is best to follow recommended medical protocols, including vaccination and testing.

What tests should you get if you suspect you have COVID-19?

If you have COVID-19 symptoms or have had close contact with an infected person, you should get tested. Isolate yourself while waiting for test results.

COVID-19 is diagnosed using the following tests:

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test: This test looks for the virus in a swab sample taken from the nose or throat.
  • Rapid antigen testing or rapid diagnostic test: This test uses a nasal swab to detect viral proteins called antigens and is available as a home testing kit.
  • Chest computed tomography (CT) scan: In addition to lab tests, chest CT scans can help diagnose COVID-19.
  • Antibody test: This can reveal whether you have had a previous illness, even if you were asymptomatic at the time, but it cannot be used to determine whether an infection is active.

What are potential complications of COVID-19?

About 80% of people infected with COVID-19 suffer mild to moderate symptoms and can recover without the need for hospitalization. About 15%, however, become seriously ill and require oxygen. About 5% become critically ill and require immediate medical attention.

COVID-19 has the potential to result in health complications and even death in susceptible individuals. Complications include:

Older individuals and those with the following conditions are at higher risk of COVID-19 complications:

What organs can be damaged by COVID-19?

Lungs

COVID-19 can cause lung problems such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in severe cases. 

Pneumonia: Pneumonia causes the lungs to swell and fill with fluid. This can lead to difficulty breathing, which may become so severe that hospitalization, oxygen therapy, and monitoring for oxygen saturation may be required.While most people recover from pneumonia without any long-term consequences, pneumonia caused by COVID-19 can be rather dangerous. Even after recovery from the infection, damage to the lungs can cause breathing problems that last for months, resulting in additional complications.

Acute respiratory distress: ARDS is a condition in which excess fluid collects in the small air sacs of the lungs, causing blood oxygen levels to drop below normal (hypoxemia). In most COVID-19 cases, the virus adheres to the upper airway around the throat, triggering an immune response. In rare cases, however, the virus can get through the upper airway and into the lungs and alveoli, leading to ARDS, which typically appears 8 days after the onset of initial symptoms. Risk factors such as advanced age, diabetes, and high blood pressure increase the likelihood of having ARDS with COVID-19.

Heart

Underlying heart conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease have been linked to poor outcomes in COVID-19 patients. Cardiovascular complications such as myocardial injury, heart failure, and arrhythmias have also been linked to poor survival. 

In a recent study, researchers detected cardiac anomalies in 78% of patients with COVID-19, as well as ongoing myocardial inflammation in 60%. Even though their cardiac function appeared to be retained, high levels of the blood enzyme troponin (an indication of heart injury) were identified in 76% of patients. Notably, most of the individuals in the study did not require hospitalization.

Kidneys

Even patients who had no prior kidney issues before COVID-19 infection have been shown to have kidney impairment and tissue destruction after illness. According to some reports, up to 30% of patients with COVID-19 admitted to hospitals in China and New York suffered from moderate or severe kidney damage. Proteinuria or an excess of protein in the urine and abnormal blood components are both indicators of kidney impairment.

Because the kidneys contain angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors, they are vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. The virus triggers an immune response that may be aggressive and result in a cytokine storm that destroys kidney cells. 

Liver

Since the liver also contains ACE2 receptors, people with COVID-19 are at risk of liver injury. Some COVID-19 patients have been shown to have higher levels of liver enzymes, such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), which are signs of liver damage. 

Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 who also have a history of cirrhosis (liver tissue damage) or preexisting liver disease (chronic liver disease) are at higher risk of death.

Nervous system

There has been an increase in the frequency of COVID-19 patients reporting neurological symptoms such as brain inflammation, seizures, and hallucinations.

According to a study published in JAMA Neurology by a group of Chinese doctors, more than one-third of 214 patients with COVID-19 in Wuhan who were hospitalized due to severe symptoms had neurologic symptoms. The most common symptoms were dizziness, headaches, impaired consciousness, loss of taste and smell, and skeletomuscular injuries. According to the study, the most dangerous symptoms, though rare, were seizures and stroke.

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References
Image Source: iStock Images

Gavriatopoulou M, Korompoki E, Fotiou D, et al. Organ-specific manifestations of COVID-19 infection. Clin Exp Med. 2020;20(4):493-506. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC7383117/#Sec12title

Johns Hopkins Medicine. COVID-19 Lung Damage. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/what-coronavirus-does-to-the-lungs

Yu D, Du Q, Yan S, Guo XG, He Y, Zhu G, Zhao K, Ouyang S. Liver injury in COVID-19: clinical features and treatment management. Virol J. 2021 Jun 9;18(1):121. https://virologyj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12985-021-01593-1

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Coronavirus: Kidney Damage Caused by COVID-19. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-kidney-damage-caused-by-covid19

Yale Medicine. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/ards

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What to Know About Liver Disease and COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/liver-disease.html

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