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.
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 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.
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.
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.