Can Allergies Cause an Itchy, Sore Throat?
When your body comes in contact with an allergen like pet dander or pollen, your immune system goes into overdrive to fight it. While these substances do not pose a threat, your immune system thinks they do. Allergies trigger immune cells to release a chemical known as histamine.
Normally, histamine is an important part of your body’s natural defenses against parasites and other invaders. It works by making blood vessels leakier to help immune cells and other protectors move to the sight of infection. Unfortunately for us, histamine is also responsible for those pesky allergy side effects like watery eyes and a runny nose.1
Allergies can also cause a sore, itchy throat. Your body’s histamine response causes irritation and inflammation; if you continue to breathe in allergens, the particles can also irritate your throat.
Allergies may also come with post-nasal drip, or that tickling feeling in the back of your throat from mucus leaving your sinuses. Your throat may become sore or irritated, especially if you cough or clear your throat continuously to try to remove it.2
How to Tell if my Sore, Itchy Throat Symptoms are From Allergies
Allergies come along with a group of symptoms that make it easier to tell if they are the cause of your sore, itchy throat. These symptoms include:3
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Tingling or itchiness in your nose or the roof of your mouth
A sore throat from allergies may feel like it is dry, scratchy, itchy or raw. You may find yourself swallowing, coughing, or clearing your throat more to help alleviate it.
Common Allergens that Cause Sore, Itchy Throat
Pet dander, dust, certain foods, and pollen are some of the most common allergens you may come across on a daily basis. Your body may think they are a foreign invader, triggering inflammation and histamine release, and, as a result, a sore, itchy throat.
We love pets, but sometimes our bodies do not love them. Dead skin cells from cats and dogs (known as dander), along with their saliva and urine, can be a source of irritation for many. You may come in contact with an animal, or breathe in dander that hangs in the air, which can set off an allergic response. You may also develop chest tightness and itchy skin.4 Read here for tips on how to deal with pet allergies.
Seasonal allergies caused by pollen can also be troublesome. Luckily, they only flare up at certain times of the year, depending on your location and what you are allergic to. Most pollens come from grasses, trees and weeds. They rarely come from flowering plants or trees.5 In the fall, mold on wet leaves and soil can also cause a sore throat and allergies. For tips on how to fight outdoor allergens, read here.
If you have a pollen allergy, you may also be allergic to some raw fruits, vegetables, or tree nuts. This interesting phenomenon is known as oral allergy syndrome. This occurs when your immune system recognizes proteins in both pollen and foods, which can cause a similar allergic response. Eating these foods can cause your mouth, lips, tongue, and throat to become swollen, itchy, or sore.6 Take note of which foods cause a sore throat and try to avoid them when you can.
Other Causes of Sore or Itchy Throat
While they may be a culprit, allergies are not the only cause of a sore, itchy throat. Others include:7
- The common cold or other viruses — especially those that affect the upper respiratory tract
- Environmental irritants like pollution, car exhaust, or cigarette smoke
- Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Dryness indoors
- Breathing through your mouth rather than your nose — especially if it is due to chronic nasal congestion
Wondering if your sore throat is due to allergies or a cold? Read more here.
Treatments and Remedies to Soothe a Sore, Itchy Throat from Allergies
Oftentimes, a sore throat due to allergies can be treated from home. Be sure to get proper sleep and rest your voice. Drinking plenty of fluids — such as water or hot tea with honey — can help keep you hydrated while soothing your irritated throat. Steam can also help alleviate the dry, itchy feeling; use a cool-air humidifier or stand in a steamy shower to breathe in the moisture.7
You can also take over the counter (OTC) medications, like antihistamines, to help counter your immune system’s response to allergens. Take BENADRYL® Allergy ULTRATABS® for sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, and itchy throat due to allergies. A sore throat can also be caused by post-nasal drip, or mucus that accumulates at the back of the throat. Make sure to stay hydrated to help thin this mucus.
When to Consult a Doctor
If you notice you have persistent allergy symptoms that have not gone away on their own or after treatment with OTC medications, talk to your doctor about other treatments.
Severe allergies can develop into a reaction known as anaphylaxis, which causes your airways to close up and makes it difficult to breathe. If you have a severe allergy, you likely carry around an epinephrine auto injector. If you or someone around you appears to be having a severe allergic reaction, use the injector, then call 911.
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis include:8
- Swollen face or throat (can also be other parts of the body)
- Wheezing and chest tightness
- Red rash with welts or hives
- Trouble breathing and swallowing
- Hoarse voice
- Stomach cramping
Knowing these symptoms and what to do can help save a life.
It is important to note that BENADRYL® is not indicated for the treatment of anaphylaxis. If you have severe allergies, talk to your doctor about which medications are best for you.
MedlinePlus. Histamine: The Stuff Allergies are Made of. September 8, 2017. Accessed from: https://medlineplus.gov/medlineplus-videos/histamine-the-stuff-allergies-are-made-of/
ENT Health. Post-nasal Drip. August 2018. Accessed from: https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/post-nasal-drip/
Mayo Clinic. Allergies. August 4, 2020. Accessed from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/symptoms-causes/syc-20351497
Mayo Clinic. Pet allergy. August 4, 2021. Accessed from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pet-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352192
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Pollen Allergy. February 2022. Accessed from: https://www.aafa.org/pollen-allergy/
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Oral allergy syndrome (OAS). September 28, 2020. Accessed from: https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/conditions-library/allergies/oral-allergy-syndrome-(oas)
Mayo Clinic. Sore throat. June 10, 2021. Accessed from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sore-throat/symptoms-causes/syc-20351635
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Anaphylaxis. Accessed from: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-treatments/allergies/anaphylaxis