Sore Throat and Allergies: What’s the Connection?

A sore throat is a common discomfort in people with allergies. The leading cause of this kind of sore throat is postnasal drip. It occurs when discharge from your nose runs down the back of your throat. 

When you have allergies, exposure to an allergen causes sinus congestion. This congestion drains into your throat, causing pain, scratching, and tickling.

This article explains how sore throat and allergies are related. It also offers some suggestions for treating a sore throat when your allergies are bothering you.

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

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The Effects of Allergens

An allergen is a substance that causes an allergic reaction. When you're allergic to something, your body’s immune system incorrectly identifies it as dangerous and begins creating antibodies against it. This antibody response is the reason your body produces allergy symptoms.

Common allergens that may cause a sore throat related to postnasal drip include:

In addition to sore throat, other symptoms accompany allergies. Some allergens cause more severe symptoms than others. Allergy symptoms include:

Is It an Infection or Allergies?

It can be difficult to tell whether a sore throat is from allergies or a virus like COVID-19 or the cold or flu. One primary way to tell the difference is that allergies don't cause body aches or fever. If either of those symptoms accompanies your sore throat, you may have an infection.

Prevention

Treating a sore throat from allergies may involve prevention strategies, at-home treatment, medication, or a combination of things. The good news is there are a lot of treatments you can try that may offer you relief.

According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, avoiding exposure to allergens is the best way to prevent allergy symptoms.

Avoiding allergens has the added benefit of keeping you from using medication as often. You can limit your exposure to allergens by:

  • Staying indoors when pollen counts (index of the amount of pollen, a fine grain from plants, in the air) are high
  • Keeping windows closed 
  • Using air purifiers (remove harmful particles from the air)
  • Using dehumidifiers (remove moisture from the air) for mold and mildew allergens
  • Changing your clothes and showering after being around an allergen

Medications

There are many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications that can help manage your allergy symptoms. Medications are especially effective for combating nasal congestion that contributes to a sore throat. These include:

  • Antihistamines: Histamine is the chemical your body releases in response to an allergen. Antihistamines work by blocking the receptor for histamine and thereby stopping allergy symptoms. These are the most used medications for treating nasal allergies. Examples of antihistamines include Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), and Claritin (loratadine).
  • Decongestants: Congestion occurs when mucus in the nasal passages blocks the airways and when blood vessels in the nose enlarge. Decongestants work by shrinking the blood vessels (known as vasoconstriction). These medications are sometimes combined with antihistamines for allergy relief. Examples of decongestants include Afrin (oxymetazoline) and Sudafed (pseudoephedrine).
  • Nasal sprays: Corticosteroids provide the most effective relief from nasal allergies. They work by reducing inflammation and blocking allergic responses. Examples include Nasonex (mometasone) and Flonase (fluticasone).

Side Effects

All medications have a risk of side effects, even those available without a prescription. For example, some antihistamines cause drowsiness, and decongestants can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Be sure to read package instructions and warnings carefully. Stop taking medication and contact your doctor if you experience worrisome symptoms.

Allergy Shots

Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, involve injecting allergens at higher doses over time. This exposure results in your becoming less sensitive to the allergen when you complete the therapy.

How Do Allergy Shots Work?

Allergy shots are different from other medications in that they don't work as a form of symptom management. Instead, they work to address the underlying cause. 

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

Allergy shots tend to be a good idea for people who don't want to take medication or whose allergy medication is no longer working. It's also appealing to people who would like to resolve, rather than treat, their allergies.

Natural Remedies for Allergic Sore Throat

Soothing a sore throat from allergies is similar to finding relief when you have a sore throat for other reasons. Rest, hydration, and soothing irritated tissues will likely ease your discomfort. Some at-home methods to try include:

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

Sometimes what seems like a sore throat from allergies may turn out to be something more serious. If you notice any of the following signs of infection, call your healthcare provider:

  • Severe throat pain
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing
  • Coughing blood
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck
  • White patches on your throat
  • Fever
  • Loss of voice

Summary

The leading cause of sore throat from allergies is postnasal drip, which is when nasal discharge runs down the back of your throat. 

One primary way to tell if your sore throat is being caused by allergies is that allergies don't cause body aches or fever. If either of those symptoms accompanies your sore throat, it’s a good indication an infection may be the problem.

Treating a sore throat from allergies may involve prevention strategies, at-home treatment, medication, or a combination of things. Call your healthcare provider if you notice more severe symptoms like trouble swallowing or breathing, coughing up blood, fever, or enlarged lymph nodes to name a few.

A Word From Verywell

If you experience a sore throat that coincides with other allergy symptoms, chances are your sore throat is from allergies. You might suspect a sore throat is from allergies, especially if you have no other signs of infection, like a fever or body aches.

Even so, it's a good idea to pay attention to warning signs that your sore throat could be something more serious. If you notice severe pain or pain that doesn't go away with at-home treatment, it's a good idea to get in touch with your doctor.

Often, managing your allergy symptoms will take care of your sore throat, too. Especially if your treatment effectively clears up your congestion. Since there are so many ways to treat allergies, it's a good idea to discuss the options with your healthcare provider. They'll be able to help you decipher which allergens may be playing a role and which treatment options might work best.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you have just a sore throat from allergies?

    Since postnasal drip is often the source of throat pain with allergies, it would be rare to have your only allergy symptom be a sore throat. That said, sometimes congestion is overlooked, especially if the nose isn't actively draining. In that case, it may seem as though a sore throat is the only allergy symptom.

  • How long does a sore throat from allergies last?

    As long as your allergy symptoms persist, you will likely experience this symptom. However, there are many ways to manage allergy symptoms, many of which will reduce or eliminate your sore throat, as well.

  • 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, any treatment that addresses postnasal drip tends to also help sore throat from allergies since that is usually the cause. These include antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays.

  • What drinks help a sore throat from allergies?

    Warm water with honey and tea are great options for soothing a sore throat. In addition, a saltwater gargle can soothe irritated throat tissues.

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8 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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