Common Causes of a Sore Throat and Cough

Common Causes of a Sore Throat and Cough In light of recent public health concerns, having a sore throat and a nagging cough has become cause for significant alarm. However, waking up with a scratchy throat should not trigger immediate panic. While a hacking cough is a potential symptom of coronavirus (COVID-19), there are several other, less serious conditions that are more likely cause a sore throat and cough. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common.

Flu (Influenza)

The flu is a viral infection that peaks on an annual basis, usually between October and March. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 20% of Americans are affected by the flu every year. This infection can cause a sore throat, wet or dry cough, fever, chills and other symptoms that may last for several days or weeks.

The Common Cold

The “common cold” is appropriately named. Millions of Americans catch a cold on an annual basis, with many getting multiple colds over the course of a year. This viral infection can produce symptoms like sore throat, cough, congestion, sneezing and body aches that may linger for a week or more.

Sinus Infection

Sinus infections can be viral and develop as a result of a cold, or they may be caused by bacteria or fungi. Whatever its origin, a sinus infection can trigger several weeks or even months of unpleasant symptoms, including sore throat and persistent coughing as a result of postnasal drip.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that can produce inflammation and significant pain and soreness in the throat. It’s rare for strep throat to cause a cough, but it can lead to nausea, headache and fever. This condition can occur in people of all ages, although it most often affects kids and teens.


Seasonal allergies are very common and are often to blame for a scratchy throat. Allergies can trigger a wide variety of problems, including sore throat, cough, sneezing, red and watery eyes, congestion and other bothersome symptoms that may linger until the season changes.

Other Causes

Several other factors may cause a sore throat or cough, such as:

  • Dry indoor air
  • Indoor or outdoor air pollution
  • Irritants such as cigarette smoke, alcohol and chemicals in household products
  • Talking too long or loudly without rest
  • Other medical conditions, including gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) and certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

While a sore throat or cough usually does not indicate a life-threatening emergency, it is important to call 911 if you or someone around you cannot swallow or breathe easily.

Find Relief From Your Symptoms

Tufts Medical Center Community Care is a multispecialty medical group with dozens of physicians who provide sore throat and cough treatment at our conveniently located centers throughout north suburban Boston. To schedule an appointment for you or your child, contact our friendly team today or reserve an appointment online.

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