Seasonal allergies come with a runny nose and sneezing, but can they also cause a sore throat? Here, experts discuss the link between postnasal drip and throat irritation.

Advertisement

Sore throats can be tricky symptoms in kids. Does the scratchiness mean they have a cold or the flu? What about strep throat or COVID-19? As it turns out, an irritated throat can sometimes be nothing more than allergies. Keep reading to learn why allergies cause a sore throat and how to ease the irritation.

Why Can Seasonal Allergies Cause a Sore Throat?

Allergies happen when the body perceives a foreign substance (such as mold or pollen) as a threat, and the immune system produces antibodies and histamine in response. This creates an inflammatory reaction that makes you feel downright crummy. Common allergy symptoms include sneezing, congestion, runny nose, sinus pressure, and dark circles under the eyes (allergic shiners). But under the right circumstances, allergy sufferers could develop a sore throat as well. 

Why does this happen? Children with allergies “often have increased mucus production in the nasal passages that drips down the back of the throat. This is referred to as postnasal drip,” explains Sanjeev Jain, M.D., a board-certified allergist and immunologist at Columbia Allergy. “As the mucus drips down the throat, it causes irritation to the mucosa that lines the throat, and this can result in the sensation of a sore throat.”

Child with sore throat with her hand on her neck
Credit: Getty Images

Keep in mind that sore throat can have other causes as well. For example, it often appears with viral upper respiratory infections (like colds or influenza) and bacterial infections (like strep throat), says Natasha Burgert, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician for Pediatric Associates in Overland Park, Kansas. Sore throat might also be a symptom of COVID-19 in kids. Contact your pediatrician if you don’t know the cause of your child’s sore throat; they may need to diagnose and treat it.

How to Treat a Sore Throat from Allergies

According to Dr. Burgert, you can treat allergy-induced sore throat with over-the counter-pain medication like Tylenol or Motrin. Even better, you can eliminate the cause of the sore throat (allergy-induced postnasal drop) with antihistamines like Zyrtec, Claritin, or Allegra. Steroid nasal sprays can also decrease the production of watery mucus.

As a natural treatment, allergy-prone children should reduce their exposure to the allergen as much as possible. For example, children allergic to pollen shouldn’t sleep with bedroom windows open during the pollen season, and they should shower before bedtime to remove as much pollen as possible. Similarly, children with allergies to dogs or cats should be kept away from these animals. Keeping hydrated and using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters may also help.

If your child has serious or prolonged allergy symptoms, talk with a doctor, who may diagnose allergies by examining your child and reviewing their symptoms and medical history. In some cases, the doctor will conduct blood or skin tests to make a diagnosis, and they might recommend prescription medication or treatment with allergy shots.