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COVID-19 is a viral illness that has a variety of symptoms. Many of these symptoms impact the upper respiratory tract, which includes your nose, throat, and upper airways.

You may be wondering if the feeling of a lump in your throat could mean that you have COVID-19. The short answer is probably no, unless you have other common COVID-19 symptoms like fever, cough, or fatigue.

In this article, we discuss why having a lump in the throat by itself is not generally an indicator of COVID-19, the more common causes of this sensation, and some steps you can take to ease the feeling.

A lump in the throat is a feeling of fullness in the throat. It’s not painful and an examination reveals no actual object in the throat. The medical term for a lump in the throat is globus sensation or globus pharyngeus.

Feeling a lump in your throat is relatively common. In fact, this sensation accounts for about 4 percent of new visits to ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors.

A lump in the throat and COVID-19

Generally speaking, having a lump in your throat is probably not a symptom of COVID-19 unless it’s happening along with other COVID-19 symptoms.

Three of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

Additional COVID-19 symptoms that are reported with a lower frequency include:

A lump in the throat has been reported in a very small number of people with COVID-19. These findings were discussed in a study of ENT symptoms in 116 people with confirmed COVID-19.

Researchers found that sore throat was the most common throat-related symptom. It was found in 38 (32.7 percent) of participants. A lump in the throat was reported in only 16 participants (13.7 percent).

The exact cause of a lump in the throat is unknown. However, there are a variety of conditions that it’s been linked to. Some examples include:

Acid reflux

Acid reflux is a condition in which stomach acid travels up the esophagus and into the throat. This acid can irritate the lining of the throat, leading to inflammation and a feeling of a lump in the throat.

Tension or spasms of throat muscles

The muscles of your throat typically function in a coordinated manner. Having tension or spasms in these muscles or uncoordinated swallowing may lead to sensations like a lump in the throat.

Stress or anxiety

Many times, the sensation of a lump in the throat reportedly worsens in times of increased stress or anxiety. This is because it can cause tension in the throat muscles.

Sinusitis with post-nasal drip

Sinusitis or a viral upper respiratory illness (a common cold) can cause post-nasal drip, which is when nasal mucus drips down the back of your throat. As this happens, it may lead to a feeling that you have a lump in your throat.

Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is a condition in which your tonsils become swollen. This may make you feel as if something is in your throat.

Goiter

A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland and can occur in people with thyroid disease. A goiter may push against your throat, leading to a feeling of fullness in the area.

Hiatal hernia

A hiatal hernia is when the top part of your stomach bulges up through an opening in your diaphragm. One of the main symptoms of a hiatal hernia is acid reflux, a potential cause of a lump in the throat.

Cervical osteophytes

Cervical osteophytes are bone spurs in the neck vertebrae. It’s possible that in some cases these can cause a feeling of pressure or throat fullness.

Rare types of cancer

Although very uncommon, some rare head or neck cancers can cause the sensation of having a lump in your throat.

If you have a lump in your throat, there are some things that you can try at home to help ease the sensation. Let’s explore them now.

Swallow

Swallowing can help to relax muscles in your throat. If you feel like you have a lump in your throat, take a swallow. A good way to do this is to take a small sip of water, which can also help to keep your throat from getting too dry.

Rest your throat

Try to cut back on actions that can further irritate your throat. Some examples of these include talking for long periods, clearing your throat often, and shouting.

Find ways to lower stress

Stress can make your symptoms worse, so look for ways to reduce it. Some examples of things you can try include:

Exercises

In addition to swallowing, a few other movements or exercises may also help alleviate a lump in your throat. Some examples are:

  • Yawning: Yawn widely as you breathe in and then breathe out softly.
  • Tongue movement: With your mouth closed, slowly move your tongue along the outside of your teeth. Aim to do this 10 times in each direction.
  • Chewing: Move your mouth and tongue as if you’re chewing a piece of gum. Try to use large, more exaggerated movements as you do so.
  • Head and shoulder stretches: Sitting or standing with good posture, try out the following:
    • Head circles: Allow your head to drop toward your chest. Slowly move your head in a circle, repeating in the opposite direction.
    • Neck stretches: Gently drop your head sideways toward your left shoulder, hold the position for a few seconds, and then gently repeat the exercise on the right side.
    • Shoulder shrugs: Raise your shoulders toward your ears, holding for a few seconds and then relaxing.

Take medications as directed

If you have acid reflux, be sure to take all medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, as directed by your doctor.

Many people will experience the feeling of a lump in their throat at some point in their lifetime. This sensation typically goes away with at-home care and doesn’t require a visit to the doctor.

Unless it occurs along with other COVID-19 symptoms, it’s unlikely that a lump in the throat is a sign of COVID-19.

Some more common causes of a lump in the throat are acid reflux, stress or anxiety, and tension in the throat muscles.

You can help ease a lump in your throat by swallowing, reducing stress, and trying out various movements and exercises. See your doctor if your symptoms don’t go away, get worse, or include things like pain or difficulty swallowing.