Sore Throat: Allergies or a Cold? Here’s What You Should Know

A woman in a robe grips a coffee mug and holds her throat with her eyes closed in pain.


It’s that time of year again: when we question our symptoms to determine if we are coming down with a cold or experiencing nagging seasonal allergies.

Common colds and seasonal allergies often have similar or identical symptoms, leaving us to wonder what we are experiencing.

Each year, over a billion people in America are estimated to have a cold, while seasonal allergies can affect as many as 60 million people.

One of the most common complaints during the colder months from adults and children alike is a sore throat. While many are mild, some can be extremely painful, leading to difficulty swallowing. No matter what severity level you’re experiencing, it is vital to know the cause to get the proper treatment you need sooner.

If you have a sore throat, knowing if it’s tied to allergies or a cold is crucial to your healing. While we don’t recommend self-diagnosis, we know that knowledge is power, and we are here to help you understand your symptoms and their potential ties to other health conditions.

Let’s explore the difference between a cold and allergies as it pertains to a sore throat.

What Is a Cold?

The common cold is a viral infection affecting your upper respiratory tract, specifically your throat and nose. In fact, one of the most common first symptoms of a common cold is a scratchy or sore throat followed by nasal congestion or runny nose.

A common cold can be caused by various types of viruses and is classified as harmless for most people. With a cold, symptoms, like a sore throat, usually, resolve within 2 weeks.

What Are Seasonal Allergies?

Allergies, season-specific or otherwise, are your immune system’s overreaction to exposure to a specific type of allergen.

Seasonally, this can occur from things such as pollen or ragweed. Allergies can also be triggered by other factors, such as exposure to mold or pet dander.

Is a Sore Throat a Symptom of Allergies or a Cold?

The short answer is that it depends.

A sore throat can be caused by irritation or bacterial or viral infections, so getting to the underlying cause is essential to determine the proper treatment you need, especially if you are living with strep throat that requires antibiotics.

Allergies and the common cold can both cause throat irritation. In most cases, a sore throat is often the first sign of a cold. While allergies can affect the throat due to cough or post-nasal drip, it is less likely the underlying cause of your sore throat.

For most, a sore throat is caused by a cold, the flu, COVID-19, or an infection of the throat directly.

If you or a loved one are experiencing a sore throat, you may want to visit your doctor or urgent care for further evaluation and proper diagnosis.

Comparing Other Common Cold and Allergy Symptoms 

Although symptoms of the common cold and allergies can be similar, there are some significant differences between the two that you should note.

Along with a sore throat, you may experience an array of symptom types of severity levels depending on the underlying cause. Read through the list below to narrow down your symptoms.

Symptoms Cold Allergies
Cough Usually Sometimes
Aches and Pains Sometimes Never
Fatigue Sometimes Sometimes
Itchy, watery eyes Rarely Usually
Sneezing Usually Usually
Runny Nose Usually Usually
Stuffy Nose Usually Usually
Fever Sometimes Never


Sore Throat Care You Need Now

Although most sore throats can be treated at home, we recommend visiting our urgent care facility if

  • Your symptoms last longer than a week.
  • OTC medication isn’t helping.
  • You have other underlying health conditions or a compromised immune system that may be affected.
  • Your symptoms are severe and life-altering.
  • The medication you’re taking is causing adverse side effects.

Visit State Urgent Care today to get your sore throat examined. Appointments can be made ahead of time, but we welcome walk-ins seven days a week, so simply walk in for the care you need now.