What are Common Causes of Sore Throat and Congestion?

B. Miller
B. Miller
A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
A crossection of the human head, including the throat.

When sore throat and congestion occur together, they are most often caused by a cold, allergies, or a sinus infection. Bacterial infections that may cause a sore throat, such as strep throat, typically do not also cause congestion. Usually, these symptoms are caused by a virus that will simply need to get better on its own, often within a week or two. Getting some extra rest in the first few days of a cold can help encourage it to get better more quickly.

A nasal irrigation spray, which can help with a sore throat and congestion.
A nasal irrigation spray, which can help with a sore throat and congestion.

Typically, a sore throat and congestion is caused by mucus dripping down the back of the throat. This causes irritation and pain, making it difficult to swallow; it can also cause bad breath. This post nasal drip may also cause coughing. A sore throat caused by a cold will typically go away after a few days, so if it gets worse, or is accompanied by a fever, it may be necessary to visit a doctor. A simple throat swab will be able to determine if the sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection like strep throat.

Allergies are one of the leading causes of phlegm.
Allergies are one of the leading causes of phlegm.

Allergies are another common cause of sore throat and congestion. Irritants in the air will often cause a dry, scratchy throat and clogged nasal passages that can be difficult to get rid of. Seasonal allergies are quite common, as are allergies to dust or pet dander. Taking antihistamines or irrigating the nose with a saline solution can often help to combat a sore throat and congestion caused by allergies. Prescription allergy medications are also available if necessary.

Getting antibiotics from a doctor may be necessary.
Getting antibiotics from a doctor may be necessary.

Sinus infections can also lead to sore throat and congestion. These are characterized by pain on the front of the face and the forehead, and sometimes a fever or fatigue. Though it can be possible to treat a sinus infection with nasal irrigation, decongestants and inhalation of hot steam, sometimes it is necessary to visit a doctor for antibiotics. Antibiotics will quickly clear up a sinus infection, and it is important to take the whole prescription to prevent inadvertently causing an antibiotic-resistant infection.

Inhaling steam vapors will help loosen congestion.
Inhaling steam vapors will help loosen congestion.

Relief from sore throat and congestion can sometimes be found by gargling warm salt water, drinking hot tea with lemon or honey, and inhaling warm steam. Over the counter painkillers and decongestants can help to relieve pain from a sore throat and clear a clogged nose. Cutting back on dairy products temporarily can also help with congestion, because dairy products encourage the production of mucus.

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    • A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
      A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
    • A nasal irrigation spray, which can help with a sore throat and congestion.
      A nasal irrigation spray, which can help with a sore throat and congestion.
    • Allergies are one of the leading causes of phlegm.
      Allergies are one of the leading causes of phlegm.
    • Getting antibiotics from a doctor may be necessary.
      Getting antibiotics from a doctor may be necessary.
    • Inhaling steam vapors will help loosen congestion.
      Inhaling steam vapors will help loosen congestion.
    • Adding lemon to hot tea is a home remedy for sore throat and congestion.
      Adding lemon to hot tea is a home remedy for sore throat and congestion.
    • A low-grade fever, sore throat, and congestion may be signs of a sinus infection.
      A low-grade fever, sore throat, and congestion may be signs of a sinus infection.
    • A person with post nasal drip might cough often to try to relieve the feeling in their throat.
      A person with post nasal drip might cough often to try to relieve the feeling in their throat.