Headache and Sore Throat: 4 Possible Causes

Headache and sore throat are not directly linked but various diseases can carry both, as the associated symptoms. Headache is occasionally present and rarely holds any significance in the diagnosis of the disease. However, different conditions that can cause these simultaneously are stated as:

  1. Viral Infections
  2. Bacterial Infections
  3. Allergies
  4. Cancer

1- Viral infections

Many viral infections can cause a headache and sore throat to co-exist.


Some of the causes are as follows:

Common causes

  • Common cold
  • Influenza
  • Infectious mononucleosis

Less common causes

  • HIV
  • COVID-19
  • Human papilloma virus-8


Some mutual symptoms present in all of these conditions are:

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Sneezing
  • Fever and chills
  • Congested or runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Fatigue and general weakness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Body aches
  • Nausea and vomiting

All of these symptoms may or may not be present at once. Where some individuals experience some of these symptoms, others may not.


Viral infections are self-limiting and disappear within a week or so. However, the symptoms can be eased by taking a few steps:

  • Taking a lot of rest
  • Staying hydrated
  • Using lozenges for sore throat
  • Breathing in steam.

2- Bacterial infections

Several bacteria can inhabit the throat, causing inflammation and pain. Several diseases are caused by different bacteria.


Headache and sore throat can occur simultaneously in several diseases. Some of these are mentioned below:

  • Strep throat
  • Bacterial tonsillitis
  • Pharyngitis
  • Peritonsillar abscess


Some common symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Painful swallowing
  • Muffled voice
  • Foul-smelling breath
  • Lockjaw
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite


Treatment for each condition is different depending upon the severity of symptoms and causes.

Treatment generally begins with an oral antibiotic, moving on to an IV antibiotic, and then trying some invasive procedures such as tonsillectomy, etc.

3- Allergies

An allergic reaction can cause headaches and sore throat along with some respiratory problems. Several allergic reactions occur in response to allergens such as dust, pollen, animal dander, etc.


Any sort of foreign particle can cause the immune system to activate and release antibodies. These antibodies bind with allergens and activate mast cells that evoke an allergic reaction by releasing inflammatory chemicals such as histamine etc.


The symptoms are similar to a viral infection except there is a lot of itching and sneezing associated with an allergic reaction.

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Sneezing
  • Itching
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Watery eyes


Antihistamines, corticosteroids, mast cell stabilizers, or decongestants can cure most cases of an allergy.

  • Analgesics for headache

Other home remedies are:

  • Saline gargles for sore throat
  • Saline nasal rinses for a stuffy nose
  • Immunotherapy remains the long-term treatment for an allergic reaction

4- Cancer

Cancer can affect any part of your body. Head and neck when involved can cause severe headache and sore throat along with other symptoms. The most common cancers are:

  • Mouth cancer
  • Throat cancer


The main cause in the case of mouth cancer is smoking and in the case of throat, alcohol drinking.


  • Persistent cough
  • Headache and Sore throat
  • Painful swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A lump in throat
  • Drastic, unintentional weight loss
  • Fever
  • Earache


Chemotherapy and radiotherapy have proven some success in the field.

Home remedies for sore throat

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Sore throat can be prevented by practicing good hygiene and avoiding any sort of contamination by hands.
  • By covering the mouth while coughing or sneezing and disposing of the used handkerchief or tissue paper appropriately.
  • Avoid direct contact with people who have a sore throat and are sick.
  • Practicing barrier methods to prevent any sort of sexually transmitted infections.
  • Honey can also be used for cold-related sore throat.
  • Lozenges and menthol can help with a sore throat.
  • Taking rest and plenty of sleep can also prevent headaches with sore throat.
  • Cold compresses to the head can also help with pain relief.
  • Yoga and meditation are also so good for the relaxation of mind.
  • Supplement therapies such as magnesium, vitamin B12, and coenzyme Q10 are also good.
  • In case of flu, take steam.

When to consult a doctor?

As soon as you start noticing the symptoms or you feel that the headache and sore throat are only worsening instead of any improvement in symptoms. You should consult your doctor as soon as possible and get a proper diagnosis.


What are the most common causes of sore throat and headache?

Viral infections are the most common cause, influenza and common cold being top of the list.

Should I take any medication for influenza related sore throat and headache?

Influenza is a viral infection and is self-limiting. No specific treatment is required, however, symptomatic treatment can provide relief.

What can possibly be the cause of sore throat and headache associated with fever?

Fever can depict a bacterial infection, or an abscess if there is severe pain and discomfort.

What is the one most important preventive treatment for viral infections?

Avoid contact with individuals who are ill. Any sort of contamination by shaking hands or by respiratory droplets can make you sick.

Last medically reviewed on August 31, 2022.