Can allergies cause sore throats?

Can allergies cause sore throats?

There are lots of different substances in the world that you might be allergic to, so it can be hard to rule out allergies as the cause of your symptoms without your doctor performing tests[1]. However, it can be helpful to know the symptoms of the most common allergies, as well as the symptoms of various throat infections, to help you tell the difference.

What are the symptoms of allergies?

As many as one in four people in the UK will experience allergies at some point in their lives, but not all allergy sufferers will get the same symptoms. Your experience can depend on what substance you’re allergic to, the level of exposure, the severity of your allergy and, in some cases, how you were exposed to the allergen. For example, inhaled allergens such as pollen and dust will lead to different symptoms than allergens that only touch the skin. In fact, you may not have an allergic reaction to some substances unless you are exposed to them in a certain way[1].

Common allergic symptoms include:

  • Sneezing, runny nose or congestion
  • Reddened, watery or itchy eyes
  • Rashes 
  • Worsening of eczema or asthma symptoms
  • Wheezing

In more severe cases, allergic reactions can cause anaphylactic shock, or anaphylaxis. This is when the skin swells up as a result of exposure to the allergen. The throat can also swell up at this time, which can lead to breathing difficulties. For this reason, anaphylaxis is an emergency situation that requires immediate medical treatment. However, anaphylaxis is far less common than allergic reactions as a whole[1].

Can allergies make you cough?

It is not uncommon for allergic reactions to cause wheezing and coughing[1]. When you inhale allergens such as pollen, dust or animal fur, they can irritate the lining of the throat and trachea, which prompts your body to cough as a reflex. In essence, this is your body trying to eject the allergens out of your windpipe.

Can allergies cause a sore throat?

Another flu-like symptom that is common in the event of an allergic reaction is a sore throat. While coughing has a more logical cause, an allergy-driven sore throat is a better example of your body getting its wires crossed. An allergic reaction occurs when your body’s immune system falsely identifies an allergen as a dangerous pathogen. It then attacks the allergen the same way it would a similar pathogen – hence allergies share a lot of symptoms with minor illnesses such as colds and the flu[1].

The duration of these symptoms can depend on many things. In the case of all allergies, symptoms should subside after you are no longer exposed to the allergen. This can be tricky to achieve if you don’t know what it is you are allergic to – but knowing the allergen doesn’t always make things simple.

If it is an allergy to pet fur, for example, typically the effects will fade as you distance yourself from the pet in question. You should be able to avoid future flare ups by staying away from the animal you’re allergic to. This applies to other very specific, localised allergens including shellfish, nuts, dust, insect stings and certain medicines.

However, if your allergy is related to a more widely found substance, it can be a little harder to stay away from. Hay fever is a good example of this. Staying indoors with the windows shut may lessen the severity of the allergic reaction, but it is unlikely you can sustain this for a long period of time[2]. Other examples include common foodstuffs such as gluten, milk and eggs – where you might not realise they are in a meal before you eat.

If this is the case, staying away from the allergen as much as possible is one thing you can do. However, you can also use treatments for when you cannot avoid the allergen. Antihistamines are designed to lessen the allergic reaction to ease your symptoms[1]. You can also treat specific symptoms with other medications.

For example, Chloralieve’s soothing honey and lemon lozenges use the local anaesthetic lidocaine to numb your throat and soothe soreness. On top of this, they are a good choice for situations in which you’re not sure if it is an allergic reaction or a throat infection causing your symptoms. As well as lidocaine, the lozenges contain two antiseptics to help your body fight off bacterial, viral and fungal infections.

If you are concerned about your allergies, or you’re not sure if it is an allergy and not an infection, it is best to consult your doctor who can help you to find answers. In the meantime, treating the symptoms can help you to get on with your day-to-day life without too much disruption.