Sore throats can be a sign of a lot of illnesses – from the common cold to flu to COVID and other viruses and infections.
If it wasn’t already tough enough to figure out the reason for that familiar scratchiness and pain, let’s add another possibility to the pile. A sore throat can also be triggered by allergies. And with a plethora of springtime allergens in the air, you might be feeling more discomfort than usual this time of year.
How common are allergy-related sore throats?
A sore throat is very common in people who have allergies. Post-nasal drip is the prime culprit.
When you’re allergic to something, your awesome immune system kicks into high gear and starts producing antibodies to fight against what’s amiss. Among other things, that can cause a big boost in mucus production.
Now, we’re big fans of mucus. It does a great job to protect, lubricate and filter out the junk you breathe in through your nose. But when too much of a good thing causes nasal and sinus congestion, that mucus needs to go somewhere. When it trickles down the back of your throat, it can cause soreness and other symptoms.
What allergens cause sore throats?
Some of the most common allergens and irritants linked with sore throats from post-nasal drip include:
- Pet dander
- Mold or mildew
- Dust mites
- Cigarette or wildfire smoke
Not surprisingly, springtime is a very common time for allergies that cause dry, scratchy and sore throats. The main trigger of spring allergies is pollen, which is released in abundance from trees, grasses and flowers. Tree pollen levels are at their highest from March through June. Grass pollen season typically lasts through the summer months.
Warmer, wetter spring weather also mean more mold.
How can I tell the difference between allergies and a cold?
Here’s one big clue from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: Colds tend to come on slowly, while allergy symptoms flare up right after you’re exposed to an allergen. Cold-related sore throats also typically go away within a few days.
A sore throat associated with an allergy will hang around long as your other allergy symptoms persist. For example, if you have a pollen allergy, your sore throat and other symptoms can last the duration of pollen season – typically around six weeks.
That said, it’s also possible to have allergies along with a cold or other viral infection.
Feeling a little overwhelmed by the possibilities? We hear you. It’s not always easy to tell the difference between allergies, colds, COVID, flu and other illnesses and infections. This handy symptom chart might help you decode the mystery.
How can I treat my allergy-related sore throat?
Avoiding the allergens that cause your sore throat pain is the best first step. Additional nasal allergy remedies can also help ease discomfort, including:
Over-the-counter medication, such as:
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays (Nasonex, Flonase, Rhinocort).
- Oral antihistamines (Zyrtec Allergy, Allegra Allergy, Claritin, Alavert).
- Oral decongestants.
Take care: While oral decongestants can reduce stuffiness, long-term use can worsen allergy symptoms and cause side effects, such as increased blood pressure and blood sugar.
Natural at-home remedies, including:
- Saltwater gargles
- Honey straight or mixed in warm water
- Nasal irrigation devices, such as neti pots.
- Warm drinks, such as tea.
- Throat lozenges.
- Steam from a humidifier or hot shower.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy). If medications don’t help, allergy shots may be the solution to chronic allergic reactions. This long-term treatment helps build immunity to specific allergies and decreases symptoms over time.
What can I do to prevent an allergy-related sore throat?
If you think your sore throat pain is a byproduct of an allergy, the best way to keep it (and other uncomfortable symptoms) at bay is to avoid exposure to allergens.
Here are a few prevention tips:
- Stay inside when pollen counts are high. Use a weather app or check tree, weed and grass pollen counts posted daily by the Northwest Asthma & Allergy Center.
- Keep windows and doors at home closed.
- Change or replace HVAC filters in your furnace every two to three months or use a more efficient HEPA filter.
- Use air purifiers to remove harmful particles from the air.
- Consider a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air and prevent mold and mildew.
- Remove shoes when entering your home.
- Change and wash clothes and shower after being outdoors.
- Groom pets regularly.
- Wash bedding at least once a week.
- Wear a facemask, hat and sunglasses to protect yourself outdoors.
When should I see a doctor for my sore throat?
In most cases, there’s no need to see a healthcare professional when you have a sore throat that’s caused by an allergic reaction. Mild symptoms can be effectively managed with OTC medications and natural remedies.
However, if your sore throat pain is persistent, or severe or you have other symptoms, a viral or bacterial infection might be the root of your discomfort.
It’s a good idea to seek care for your sore throat when:
- It’s painful to swallow.
- You have a fever.
- Your tonsils are red or swollen.
- You have tender and swollen lymph nodes in your neck.
- There are tiny red spots in the back of your throat.
Indigo Virtual Care makes it easy to get to the bottom of your sore throat. We offer same-day appointments for children and adults – all from your favorite device and the comfort of home, the office or wherever you are.
During your virtual visit, an Indigo clinician will evaluate your symptoms and offer a diagnosis, care plan and prescription, if needed.
Learn more about why Indigo Virtual Care is a great option when you need care for your minor illness or injury.
If you’d rather see us in person, feel free to book an appointment online or walk in to one of our convenient Indigo Urgent Care locations. Virtually and in person, our trusted clinicians are available from 8 am to 8 pm, every day.
If you experience any of the following symptoms with your sore throat, it’s a good idea to visit your nearest emergency department:
- Difficulty swallowing.
- A fever over 101°F.
- Joint pain.
- A rash.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Bloody mucus.
- A lump in the throat.