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Not A Cold Or The Flu? Common Causes Of A Sore Throat

Why is your throat itchy and irritated? This common symptom signals a host of possible problems — ranging from minor to severe. If you feel that telltale tingle, take a look at the potential culprits behind your sore throat.

Allergy Issues

Your eyes are itchy, your nose is running, and you can’t stop sneezing. You don’t have body aches, fatigue, or a fever. But you do have a sore, scratchy throat. Do you have a cold? The flu? Or does your sore throat have another cause?

Nasal and throat symptoms, in the absence of other illness-related issues, often signal an allergy. Seasonal allergies can happen at any time of the year — not just in the summer. While pollen may dominate in the spring or summer, plants such as ragweed can cause fall allergy issues, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Allergies aren’t an illness in the same sense that a cold or flu is. Instead of a virus or bacterial infection, an environmental trigger (such as pollen, mold, or dust) causes an immune response. The reaction causes inflammation, resulting in excess mucus production.

A runny or stuffy nose is the obvious result of mucus production. But it isn’t the only cold-like problem allergies cause. Post-nasal drip, caused by mucus moving downward, can result in the itchy irritation of a sore throat.

If you’re not sure whether your sore throat is an allergy or an infection, you need professional healthcare help. A medical provider can review your symptoms, make a diagnosis, and recommend a treatment plan. Don’t worry if your allergy symptoms seem severe. Many patients suffering with this condition find relief with antihistamines and nasal glucocorticoids.

Strep Throat

A sudden sore throat accompanied by pain when swallowing, fever, and swollen lymph nodes often indicates a strep infection. Caused by bacteria in the group A Streptococcus, strep throat requires medical treatment. Unlike a cold, which is caused by a virus, strep typically won’t resolve quickly on its own.

Even though strep is a common childhood disease, it can also affect adults. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3 in 10 children who have a sore throat have strep. This number drops to 1 in 10 for adults suffering from a sore throat. If you suspect strep, visit the medical provider as soon as possible.

The most common treatments for strep are the antibiotics penicillin and amoxicillin. If you’re allergic to either, the doctor can prescribe another family of antibiotics. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you’ll feel better. Prompt medical attention also helps to stop the spread of the disease, making it less likely you’ll infect your family, friends, or co-workers.


Typically caused by a virus, pharyngitis is an inflammation in the back of your throat. When a viral infection irritates the area, known as the pharynx, you may feel scratchiness or pain. Some patients also experience difficulty swallowing or have other symptoms such as post-nasal drip.

While this type of acute (or temporary) pharyngitis typically results from a cold or the flu, there are other causes, including some that cause chronic pharyngitis that lasts longer. A persistent sore throat may be caused by:

  • Stomach acid reflux
  • Smoking, vaping, or other smoke exposure
  • Other airborne irritant exposure

Acid reflux causes stomach acid to travel upwards to the esophagus. When the acid reaches the throat, it can cause pain and irritation. If your sore throat won’t go away and you have other symptoms, such as a burning sensation in your chest or a sour taste in your mouth, you may have pharyngitis. Frequent exposure to smoke and other airborne toxins can also irritate your throat and cause this condition.

Dealing with a sore throat when you swallow, talk, or breathe is never fun. If you have an irritated throat, talk to your medical provider and get the treatment that’s right for you.

Do you have a sore throat? Contact Premier Urgent Care Centers of California, Inc., for more information.

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