What Causes You To Have A Scratchy Throat
Scratchy throats from allergies can be the result of one or a combination of several different types of allergies:
seasonal allergies, pollen, asthma, dust mites, mold and mildew, and pet dander.
These allergens can trigger a sore throat, but when coupled together can create a greatly uncomfortable situation. Read on to learn more about these allergens and what you can do to treat and prevent a sore throat from coming on during allergy season.
Common Allergy Symptoms: Itchy Throat
Allergies can be annoying and downright devastating when they hit you. From itchy skin and watery eyes to congestion, the range of allergy symptoms can vary from mildly inconvenient to debilitating. Additionally, it can also be tough to tell apart certain allergy symptoms from an illness. So, when your throat feels scratchy, do you find yourself wondering – am I sick, or do I have allergies?
Its an important question since it shapes how you will spend the rest of your day .
What Are The Symptoms Of Allergic Rhinitis
Hay fever symptoms can appear throughout the year. Outdoor allergies are worse in the spring, summer and early fall. In warm weather, weeds and flowers bloom, and pollen counts are higher. Indoor allergies, such as those that result from pet dander and dust mites, can get worse in winter because people spend more time indoors.
Symptoms of hay fever include:
- Nasal stuffiness , sneezing and runny nose.
- Itchy nose, throat and eyes.
- Headaches, sinus pain and dark circles under the eyes.
- Increased mucus in the nose and throat.
- Fatigue and malaise .
- Sore throat from mucus dripping down the throat .
- Wheezing, coughing and trouble breathing.
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Sore Throat Caused By Allergies
Got a sore throat? Allergies might be to blame. Though many sore throats can be caused by viruses, such as the common cold or flu, or bacteria such as strep throat, allergies are an over-overlooked culprit. If you suspect your sore throat might be caused by allergies, heres what you need to know about treating the problem and alleviating the symptoms.
So What Do You Do About This
It is very important to distinguish OAS from a true food allergy that requires epinephrine. You should see your allergy provider if:
- Your OAS symptoms are causing significant throat discomfort
- Your OAS symptoms are getting progressively worse
- Your OAS symptoms are caused by cooked fruits and vegetables
- Your OAS symptoms are caused by nuts
- You have ANY other symptoms other than an itchy throat after eating raw fruits or vegetables, such as facial swelling, hives, vomiting or difficulty breathing.
If you have symptoms of OAS, you can avoid eating these raw foods, especially during allergy seasons. You can also bake or microwave the food to weaken the proteins, or eat the canned version of the food. Also, peeling the food before eating may be helpful, as the offending protein is often concentrated in the skin of the fruit/vegetable. Allergy shots can also improve the symptoms of OAS, since allergy shots change your immune system to make you less allergic to pollen. Allergy shots are a great treatment option if youre tired of feeling itchy after your favorite fruit or veggie!
Examples of possible oral allergy relationships are:
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How To Tell If Allergic Rhinitis Is Causing Itchy Throat
There are, of course, many things that can cause an itchy throat but, when its the result of allergic rhinitis, here are a few distinctive things about the issue.
Frequency – if an itchy throat is a regular problem for you, it may indicate that allergic rhinitis is the cause.
When pollen is the biggest causes of allergic rhinitis so if your symptoms get worse in the spring and summer months when plants begin to pollinate, this could once again indicate allergic rhinitis is the problem.
How Is Allergic Rhinitis Treated
Several allergy medications can improve symptoms and help you live with hay fever. These treatments come in many forms, including liquids, pills, eye drops, nasal sprays and injections. Talk to your provider before taking any medication, especially if youre pregnant or have other health concerns. Your provider may suggest:
Antihistamines: Antihistamine medications are available with a prescription or over the counter. They work by blocking the histamine that your body releases during an allergic response. Antihistamines come as pills, liquids, eye drops, nasal sprays and inhalers. They include:
- Loratadine .
- Fexofenadine .
- Levocetirizine .
Antihistamines can cause drowsiness. Avoid alcohol when taking antihistamines, especially if youre going to drive.
These medications relieve congestion in the nose and sinuses. You can take decongestants by mouth or use a nasal spray. They include:
- Afrin® nasal spray.
- Phenylephrine nasal spray .
Corticosteroid nasal sprays: These sprays and inhalers reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms of hay fever. The most common nasal sprays are Flonase®, Nasacort® and Rhinocort®. Side effects include headaches, nasal irritation, nosebleeds and cough.
Your provider might recommend immunotherapy in the form of a pill that you place under your tongue.
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How To Treat The Sore Throat Caused By Allergies
Fortunately, sore throat allergies can be treated very well, through either over-the-counter remedies or home-based cures. But always remember that the best way to avoid sore throat allergies is to prevent allergies altogether.
1. Prevent Allergies
Start by avoiding the allergens if you can. For instance, if you wind up with sore throat allergies after being around a smoker, make sure to avoid cigarette smoke. Not sure what you are allergic to? You can see your doctor to get an allergen test and figure out what makes your body react. Once you know what you are allergic to, you might be able to get a regimen of shots that will keep you from having symptoms from those irritants.
2. Take Medications
Sometimes you cant prevent allergies. In that case, turn to the great over-the-counter medications that are designed to treat all the symptoms, including sore throat. Allergies are often relieved by antihistamines such as Zyrtec and Claritin, as well as some others that treat only very specific symptoms, like Benadryl.
3. Try Home Remedies
Though these home remedies below might not get rid of the problem, they do decrease the symptoms and make allergies more tolerable.
Can Allergies Cause Sore Throat
Sore throat and allergies often go together to compound the misery of people living with allergies. Typically, an environmental allergen causes nasal congestion and sinus drainage down the back of the throat, making it scratchy or painful. This irritation can cause coughing and throat irritation or even trouble speaking.
Some of the most common allergens that cause a sore throat include:
- Cigarette smoke
- Pet dander, particularly dog and cat fur
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Can Allergies Cause A Sore Throat
So, the short answer here is yes, Evan Li, MD, an allergist and assistant professor of medicine specializing in immunology, allergy and rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine, tells Health. A sore throat can be from a direct inflammatory effect of allergens on the back of your throat, from mucus draining down into your throat, or from the irritating effect of coughing.
Sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes and nose, and runny nose are the most common symptoms associated with seasonal allergies, Kelly Simpson, MD, an allergist at Austin Regional Clinic in Austin, Texas, tells Health. But sore throat can also be added to that list, often caused by what’s referred to as “postnasal drip.” This is when increased mucus in the nasal passages drips down the back of the throat. As it drips down, it irritates the throat.
“Postnasal drip, other than causing sore throat, can also cause the sensation of something getting stuck in your throat, tickling or itching in the back of your throat and also irritation that leads to cough,” Dr. Li says.
No one allergen is more prone to causing sore throat than others, but the more potent the allergen, the more likely it is to cause symptoms of allergies overall, Dr. Li says. Some of the most potent allergens are grasses, ragweed, dust mites and cat dander.
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Hay Fever
Although hay fever doesnt cause any serious health problems, you should see your provider to rule out other conditions, such as asthma. Seek care if hay fever symptoms are getting in the way of your daily life or making it hard for you to sleep. Your provider can help you identify the allergens that are causing a reaction and recommend treatments to help you feel better.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hay fever symptoms can affect your quality of life and keep you from doing the activities you love, but effective treatments are available. Millions of adults and children manage hay fever with medications and lifestyle changes. Talk to your provider about steps you can take to relieve symptoms, breathe easier and feel better.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/30/2020.
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Rhinitis . Accessed 9/1/2021.
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology . Rhinitis Overview. Accessed 9/1/2021.
- InformedHealth.org . Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care 2006-. Hay fever: Allergen-specific immunotherapy in the treatment of allergies. Accessed 9/1/2021.
- Wheatley LM, Togias A. Allergic Rhinitis. N Engl J Med. 2015 Jan 29 372:456-463. Accessed 9/1/2021.
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Possible Explanations For An Itchy Throat
If you dont have any other COVID symptoms or have been isolating for the recommended two weeks, there are a variety of other reasons for an itchy throat that might be applicable:
In many cases, determining the cause of your itchy throat will be heavily influenced by any other accompanying symptoms. An itchy throat by itself may just be a temporary allergic reaction, but, when paired with hives or swelling, it may indicate what kind of allergen is the culprit. If paired with a runny nose or sneezing, then it may be more likely an infection.
Are There Home Remedies For A Sore Throat
As your sore throat is likely to be caused by dryness from breathing or irritation from post-nasal drip, it is important to drink plenty of water. This will keep the back of your throat moist, but will also help to thin the mucus building up at the back of your throat, reducing irritation. If your throat is feeling itchy, then drinking plenty of water will also ease the symptom.
If you are not fond of the taste of plain water, then drinking a concoction of warm water and honey has been used for years to ease the symptoms of a sore throat. Aside from the soothing effect this drink has, it has also been shown to be an effective wound healer, so may speed up recovery from the symptom.
Gargling salt water is another age-old remedy for sore throats. The antiseptic properties of salt should also prevent an infection from setting in.
Of course, as the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure, so trying to keep out of the way of pollen is probably the most effective remedy. Although it may be impossible to avoid pollen altogether, minimising your exposure to it by avoiding areas of freshly cut grass, for example, are measures worth employing.
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Allergies To Mold And Mildew
Like pollen, mold and/or mildew can also cause a sore, scratchy throat. Typical reactions to a mold or mildew allergen are swollen nasal cavities, itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, and a cough. The runny nose is part of the sore throat, as is the coughing: both feed on the other. More severe cases will result in fatigue and sinus pressure. Mold and mildew can be found in older homes, bathrooms, and in grassy fields at the change of the season, so be prepared.
How Can You Tell The Difference Between Allergies And A Cold
This time of year, its especially tough to tell what might be causing your sore throat: Is it allergies, a cold, or the flu? And as the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, continues to spread, its more difficult than everone of its symptoms is a scratchy throat. Both allergies and viral infections can cause symptoms like a sore throat, runny nose, headaches, and congestion. How can you tell whats actually making you feel crummy?
The way your symptoms appear is often a big clue: Colds tend to creep up slowly, while allergy symptoms usually flare up shortly after youre exposed to an allergen, per the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Meanwhile, if you start to notice itching, stuffiness, or an annoying tickle in the back of your throat after spending some time outside, youre probably dealing with allergies.
If your sore throat tends to get worse or makes it hard to swallow, or you develop a fever, chills, or body aches, youre probably dealing with a cold or infection, Dr. Mehdizadeh says. And if your allergy medications dont seem to be helping, thats also a sign your symptoms could be pointing to a cold, flu, COVID-19, or something else.
Unfortunately, they arent mutually exclusive: Colds and allergies can exist at the same time, Dr. Reisacher says. So if you cant figure out what youre dealing with, talk with your doctor.
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What Causes Pollen Allergies
Pollen allergy symptoms like sore throat, cough, watery eyes, itching, hives, and other, more severe reactions like asthma, are the result of a biological histamine response to pollen. Pollen is the powdery substance that trees, grasses, flowers, and weeds use to pollinate. According to the Better Health Channel, this type of allergic reaction is called hay fever.
One of the most difficult parts of having a pollen allergy isnt dealing with the symptoms, but trying to figure out what type of pollen you might be allergic to. For instance, those who are allergic to tree pollen might not have any problems with ragweed or grass pollen. Ultimately, determining which allergies you actually have could involve going to a specialist to take an official allergy test.
What Can You Do
Avoid histamine there are many food and drinks that are high in histamine such as smoked meat, milk-based products, food with artificial colouring, alcohol and caffeine. These will only exacerbate any allergic rhinitis symptoms so are best avoided when you have an outbreak of the condition.
Drink warm lemon and honey this a traditional cold and flu remedy but it works well for an itchy throat too. The warm liquid helps to soothe any irritation whilst the lemon and honey gives it a light, refreshing taste as well.
Stay hydrated water keeps the back of the throat moist to help prevent any irritation. However, it also thins mucus to prevent any build-up of the substance that may cause itchiness.
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Can I Prevent Allergy Symptoms
If youre suffering from allergy symptoms you can try to limit your exposure to the allergens whenever possible. Some suggestions include:
- Stay away from cigarette smoke and pets
- If you have seasonal allergies, you can also keep your windows closed during the peak months when your symptoms flare-up
- If you do go outside, wear a mask to protect yourself
- Delegate allergy triggers such as mowing the grass
- Keep your home or office as clean as possible if you know dust mites are a problem
- If you have food allergies, avoid those foods
- Use over-the-counter allergy medications to help control your symptoms
- Use air conditioning in the car or home
- Use a dehumidifier to keep the indoor air dry in your house
- Select a high-efficiency filter for your HVAC unit and follow recommended maintenance to care for these units
- Clean your home with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter
There are all kinds of over-the-counter medications that you can try. They could potentially help for a time. Nonprescription medications could include:
- Antihistamines or decongestants
- Nasal sprays
- Saline or nasal irrigation
However, you cant always avoid or limit your exposure to the things that cause your allergies, such as pollen, pet dander, or mold. Over-the-counter medications may not alleviate your symptoms. Fortunately, your doctor can help with medications to alleviate your symptoms.
My Throat Feels Itchy After Fruits/veggies
Sometimes our bodies get confused and think that the protein of certain fruits and vegetables look exactly the same as a tree, weed, or grass pollen. This is called cross-reactivity. When this happens, our body starts to treat that fruit/vegetable like an allergy, causing your throat or mouth to itch within a few minutes after eating. Rarely, symptoms can include tongue or lip swelling. Different fruits/vegetables can cause OAS depending on what pollen youre allergic to. For example, if your throat itches after eating an apple or celery, you may be allergic to birch tree pollen.
You may find that this happens with foods that never made you itchy before, as this can occur after teenage years. You may also find that it only happens when the fruit/vegetable is raw, but does not happen when it is cooked. This is because the proteins become denatured or weakened with high temperatures. These symptoms may also occur more frequently during pollinating seasons .
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