Allergies and Sore Throat: Treating the Cause

Written by Stephanie Faris and Kristeen Cherney | Published on May 5, 2015
Medically Reviewed by Steve Kim, MD on May 5, 2015

Do you have a sore throat? Think it may be linked to allergies? You may be right. Learn more about how a sore throat may be an allergic response to airborne particles.

Allergies and Sore Throat

When you were a child and had a sore throat, a throat lozenge just seemed to erase the pain. But now, your sore, scratchy throat can persist for days or weeks, no matter how you treat it.

When your sore throat is irritated as a result of an allergic reaction to airborne particles such as pollen, treatment becomes a little more complicated. Addressing the precise cause of your allergies can help you alleviate that sore throat once and for all.

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Allergies as a Cause for Sore Throat

Postnasal drip is the main culprit in cases of allergy-induced sore throat. The result of exposure to an allergen, postnasal drip occurs when congestion in the sinuses drains down the throat, causing tickling or scratchy pain. The drainage also can cause:

  • coughing
  • excessive swallowing
  • throat irritation
  • difficulty speaking

Many allergies, such as pollen allergies, are seasonal. If you experience symptoms year-round, your symptoms will worsen during seasons of high airborne irritants, such as pollinating flowers and trees during springtime.

Other common allergens include:

  • cigarette smoke
  • dust mites
  • mold and mildew
  • pet dander (especially cats and dogs)

Allergy symptoms generally include congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes and coughing. If you have a sore throat with fever and body aches, it’s likely the result of a virus, like a cold or flu.

Scratchiness is another way to determine if you have an allergy-induced sore throat. In addition to the “raw” feeling that results from postnasal drainage, particles that directly enter the respiratory system can cause a scratchy feeling.

Treating an Allergy-Induced Sore Throat

Preventing allergies is essential in alleviating a sore throat and other related symptoms. The first step is to limit your exposure to the irritants as much as possible. Avoid known irritants like cigarette smoke and pet dander when you can. Keep your windows closed or wear a surgical mask outside to protect yourself from airborne allergens during the worst seasons of the year.

Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid allergens. This is when medications can help. Over-the-counter antihistamines like loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) may be taken daily during the worst times of the year to alleviate allergy symptoms. These medications work by preventing the body from mounting a histamine-response to allergens that attack your system.

Your doctor may recommend a prescription-strength medication if your allergies are severe or consistent. They also may recommend decongestants or nasal sprays to help prevent postnasal drip that can lead to sore throats.

An allergist can perform skin prick tests and blood tests that will tell you exactly what you’re allergic to. Not only can this help you avoid those allergens, but it can also help determine whether or not you’re a candidate for immunotherapy such as allergy shots.

Allergy shots can help you sustain a mostly symptom-free life with long-term treatment. This treatment consists of small doses of the allergen that will, over time, reduce your body’s reaction to it. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, most patients need one to two shots per week over the course of six months. Monthly maintenance shots are required for three to five years, on average.

Natural Remedies for Allergy-Induced Sore Throat

Natural remedies are popular ways to soothe sore throat symptoms. While they won’t cure the postnasal drip causing the sore, scratchy feeling, they can provide temporary relief.

Water

Water is always recommended for any congestion problems. Dryness exacerbates the problem. Not only does drinking plenty of fluids help keep the throat moist, it also helps thin the mucus.

Warm Liquid

Warm liquids such as soups and hot teas can provide comfort to a sore throat. Gargling with warm salt water can also help soothe it. Stay away from caffeinated beverages when you have a sore throat, as caffeine can be an irritant.

Neti Pots

Using a neti pot flushes out your sinuses and helps relieve congestion. This remedy entails pouring a specially formulated salt-water solution directly into your nasal cavity. Just be aware that overuse can cause further problems.

Outlook

An allergy-induced sore throat may go away once you’re no longer exposed to allergens. Still, this is easier said than done. If your symptoms are disrupting your ability to live a comfortable life, an allergist may be able to help you find relief. If left unchecked, allergy symptoms can eventually lead to other complications, including sinus infections.

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