Can Sore Throat Be a Symptom of Allergies?

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A sore throat is common in people with allergies, and postnasal drip is typically to blame. The body can produce so much mucus in an effort to rid itself of an allergen that the discharge runs from the nose down the back of the throat, causing pain, scratching, and tickling.

It's not uncommon for people to mistake a sore throat due to allergies for a symptom of a cold.

This article explains how sore throat and allergies are related. It also offers suggestions for treating a sore throat from allergies.

Person with long brown hair squints their eyes and holds their throat with their hand

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Why Allergies Cause Sore Throat

When you're allergic to something, your body’s immune system mistakes it for something dangerous and starts making antibodies against it. Amongst other things, this encourages the production of more mucus.

Mucus is usually helpful, since it can help trap substances that enter the nose so they can be removed. However, excess mucus production can cause nasal and sinus congestion. That congestion can then drain into the throat, causing soreness and other symptoms.

Common allergens that can cause a sore throat from postnatal drip include:

When to Go to the ER

The majority of allergy-related sore throats are due to postnasal drip. However, throat swelling, discomfort, and tickling can occur due to an allergic emergency called anaphyalxis.

Seek immediate medical care if your sore throat:

Treating a Sore Throat Due to Allergies

Medications can help tamp down the immune response, reducing your risk of developing a sore throat due to allergies, or help reduce the congestion that leads to throat pain. Home remedies may help ease your discomfort.

Medications

There are many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications that can help manage a sore throat and other allergy symptoms.

Medications are especially effective for treating nasal congestion that contributes to a sore throat from allergies.

  • Antihistamines: Histamine is the chemical your body releases in response to an allergen. Antihistamines block the receptor for histamine and stop allergy symptoms. They are the most used medications for treating nasal allergies. Examples of antihistamines include Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), and Claritin (loratadine).
  • Decongestants: Congestion happens when mucus in the nasal passages blocks the airways and the blood vessels in the nose get bigger. Decongestants shrink blood vessels (vasoconstriction). These medications are sometimes combined with antihistamines for allergy symptom relief. Examples of decongestants include Afrin (oxymetazoline) and Sudafed (pseudoephedrine).
  • Nasal sprays: Corticosteroids are the most effective treatments for nasal allergies. They reduce inflammation and block allergic responses. Examples include Nasonex (mometasone) and Flonase (fluticasone).

Natural Remedies

Soothing a sore throat from allergies is similar to finding relief when you have a sore throat for other reasons. You may find some relief by using:

Rest and hydration can also help.

Preventing a Sore Throat From Allergies

Avoiding exposure to allergens is the best way to prevent allergy symptoms, including sore throats. This may also reduce the amount of medication you need.

Ways to avoid allergens that could cause a sore throat include:

  • Staying indoors when the index of the amount of pollen in the air (pollen count ) is high
  • Keeping your home's windows closed 
  • Using air purifiers to remove harmful particles from the air
  • Using dehumidifiers to remove moisture from the air and prevent mold and mildew
  • Changing your clothes and showering after being around an allergen
  • Washing bedding at least once a week

Allergy Shots

Allergy shots (immunotherapy) inject allergens into your body in higher doses over time. By getting exposed to the allergen, you become less sensitive to it by the time you complete therapy.

Allergy shots are different from other medications for allergies. Instead of managing symptoms like a sore throat, they address the underlying cause to prevent reactions to an allergen.

Healthcare providers give allergy shots in their offices. Allergy shots are a long-term treatment option, lasting three to five years. For the first few months, you get injections one to three times a week. After that, you'll get them less often—around every four to six weeks.

Allergy shots are an option for someone who does not want to take allergy medication or for whom medications haven't helped. It's also appealing to people who want to resolve their allergies rather than treat them.

Is It an Infection or Allergies?

It can sometimes be hard to tell if a sore throat is from allergies or a virus like COVID-19 or the cold or flu.

One difference is that allergies do not cause body aches or fever. If you have either or any of these additional signs of infection, call your healthcare provider:

Summary

The leading cause of sore throat from allergies is postnasal drip, which is when nasal discharge runs down the back of your throat. This occurs because allergies trigger the production of excess mucus that then needs to drain from the nose and sinuses.

Over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, and home remedies like lozenges can ease symptoms and/or help keep the allergic response causing sore throat at bay.

Additional symptoms like fever and body aches indicate sore throat is likely due to an infection, rather than allergies.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you tell if a sore throat is allergies or strep?

    A sore throat from allergies does not come with the signs and symptoms of an infection that you would have with strep throat (e.g., fever). Strep can also cause patches of pus at the back of the throat that you won't see with allergies.

  • Can you have just a sore throat from allergies?

    It would be rare. Postnasal drip that causes sore throat results from congestion, which typically also produces a runny nose, stuffiness, and facial pressure. Some of these may be mild or easy to overlook, though.

  • How long does a sore throat from allergies last?

    If you get a sore throat from allergies, you'll probably keep having it until you manage your allergic response (e.g., with an antihistamine) or you're no longer exposed to the offending allergen.

  • What is the best allergy medicine for a sore throat?

    Everyone responds differently to allergy medicine, so it's hard to say which is best. However, since postnasal drip is usually the cause of a sore throat from allergies, treating that condition with antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays usually helps.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Sore throat — know when to go to the er. American College of Emergency Physicians.

  3. Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America. Rhinitis (nasal allergies).

  4. Tran N, Vickery J, Blaiss M. Management of rhinitis: Allergic and non-Allergic. Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Research. 2011;3(3):148. doi:10.4168/aair.2011.3.3.148

  5. Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America. Allergy treatment.

  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Allergy shots.

  7. Cleveland Clinic. Sore throat remedies that actually work.

By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.