What helps allergic reaction throat swelling?

Quick answers

Some quick answers to what helps allergic reaction throat swelling include:

– Antihistamines like Benadryl can help reduce throat swelling from an allergic reaction. They block the effects of histamine which causes allergy symptoms.

– Epinephrine auto-injectors like EpiPen can quickly open up the airways and reduce throat swelling during a severe allergic reaction.

– Steroid medications like prednisone help reduce inflammation and swelling from an allergic reaction.

– Cool liquids can provide relief for a sore, swollen throat. Cold water, ice pops, frozen fruit, and cold soups can soothe throat swelling.

– Gargling with salt water can ease throat pain and swelling. The salt helps reduce inflammation.

What causes throat swelling during an allergic reaction?

An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance called an allergen. This causes the body to release chemicals like histamine which lead to allergy symptoms.

During an allergic reaction, histamine causes fluid leakage from blood vessels which leads to swelling. If the throat and vocal cords swell, it can make breathing difficult.

Some common allergens that can trigger throat swelling include:

– Foods like peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, soy, wheat, milk
– Medications like penicillin or NSAIDs
– Insect stings from bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets
– Latex
– Mold
– Pet dander
– Pollen

In rare cases, throat swelling may be the first sign of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis requires an immediate injection of epinephrine and emergency medical attention.


Antihistamines are commonly used to treat and prevent allergic reaction throat swelling. Antihistamines work by blocking the effects of histamine, the chemical released by the immune system during an allergic reaction.

Some antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) can start working in as little as 15-30 minutes to reduce throat swelling. They come in oral pill or liquid forms.

Other antihistamines like fexofenadine (Allegra) or loratadine (Claritin) may take a few hours to provide relief. These non-drowsy antihistamines can be taken daily to help prevent throat swelling from seasonal allergies.

Always follow the dosage directions carefully, as taking too much can cause side effects like drowsiness. Antihistamines provide symptom relief but do not treat the underlying allergy. Seek emergency care if throat swelling persists or worsens despite taking antihistamines.

Side effects of antihistamines

While generally safe when used as directed, antihistamines can cause potential side effects including:

– Drowsiness
– Dry mouth
– Headache
– Dizziness
– Nausea or upset stomach
– Blurred vision
– Difficulty urinating

Older adults and people with glaucoma or an enlarged prostate are more at risk for side effects. Newer second-generation antihistamines like loratadine are less likely to cause drowsiness. Always talk to your doctor about any side effects or interactions with other medications.


Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction involving throat swelling that impairs breathing. Epinephrine helps reverse throat swelling by constricting blood vessels and opening up the airways.

People with severe allergies are prescribed epinephrine auto-injectors like EpiPen. These easy to use injectable devices quickly deliver a pre-measured dose of epinephrine into the thigh muscle.

The effects start working within minutes to reduce throat swelling and other allergy symptoms. However, epinephrine only provides temporary relief for 20-30 minutes on average.

After using epinephrine, you must go to the emergency room for follow-up care and monitoring. Additional doses of epinephrine or other treatments may be needed.

Epinephrine should only be used for severe allergic reactions with throat swelling that impairs breathing. Mild cases of throat swelling can be treated with antihistamines.

Proper use of epinephrine auto-injectors

Follow these steps to properly use an epinephrine auto-injector in case of a severe allergic reaction with throat swelling:

1. Remove the safety cap from the epinephrine auto-injector.

2. Firmly jab the orange tip into the middle of the outer thigh at a 90 degree angle.

3. Hold in place for 3 full seconds to deliver the medication.

4. Remove the auto-injector and massage the injection area for 10 seconds.

5. Call 911 and seek emergency care.

Check expiration dates regularly and replace injectors before they expire. Train family members, caregivers, teachers, etc. on when and how to properly use epinephrine.

Steroid medications

Oral or injected steroid medications can also help reduce the inflammation and swelling that causes throat irritation during an allergic reaction.

Steroids like prednisone work by blocking inflammatory chemicals in the immune system response. They take several hours to start working but effects can last for days.

Steroids may be prescribed if antihistamines do not provide enough relief for throat swelling. They help prevent future allergy flare-ups. Use steroids only as directed by your doctor due to potential side effects with long-term use.

Some people may be prescribed an EpiPen along with an oral steroid dose pack to start reducing swelling while waiting for emergency treatment. Prednisone requires a prescription, so talk to your doctor.

Potential side effects of steroids

When used short-term, steroids are usually safe and effective. But potential side effects can include:

– Increased appetite and weight gain
– Difficulty sleeping
– Stomach irritation
– Changes in mood – depression, anxiety, irritability
– Muscle weakness
– Fluid retention
– High blood pressure
– Higher blood sugar
– Immunosuppression

Work closely with your doctor if steroids are prescribed for allergy swelling. Taper steroid dosages gradually rather than stopping abruptly. Seek medical care if side effects develop.

Cold compresses

Applying something cold to the outside of the swollen throat area can provide temporary relief for swelling and discomfort on the inside.

Cold compresses constrict local blood vessels to reduce fluid leakage and inflammation. Cold also numbs nerve endings in the throat, providing a soothing effect.

Some options to try include:

– Ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel and applied to the neck area for 10-15 minutes at a time.
– Cold wet washcloth pressed against the throat. Re-cool and reapply as needed.
– Ice pops can be soothing on an irritated throat while providing hydration.
– Frozen fruit like berries or pineapple chunks can relieve pain and swelling.
– Cold soups like gazpacho or fruit smoothies may also provide cooling relief if swallowing solid foods is difficult.

Avoid direct skin contact with ice to prevent damage. Drink plenty of cool fluids and try cold remedies as tolerated to stay hydrated. Seek additional medical treatment if cold compresses do not sufficiently relieve throat swelling.

Salt water gargles

Gargling with warm salt water can also temporarily ease throat swelling and irritation during an allergic reaction.

The salt helps draw out fluid from swollen tissues in the throat while the warm temperature soothes painful inflammation. Salt water also helps flush out mucus or potential allergens.

Stir 1 teaspoon of salt into 1 cup of warm water until dissolved. Gargle several mouthfuls of the solution for 30 seconds up to 4 times per day, rinsing after each use.

Salt water gargles are generally recognized as safe, with little risk of side effects. However, those with high blood pressure may want to limit sodium intake. Do not swallow large amounts of salt water.

See a doctor if swelling persists for more than a day or impairs breathing despite salt water gargles. They can assess the reaction severity and any need for prescription medications.

Oral anti-inflammatories

Over-the-counter oral anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) may also help reduce throat swelling, pain, and inflammation during an allergic reaction.

These non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work by blocking production of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins.

Take oral anti-inflammatories as directed on the label. While side effects are uncommon with occasional use, potential risks include:

– Stomach ulcers or bleeding
– Kidney problems
– Increased blood pressure
– Worsening asthma symptoms

Avoid use if you have sensitivities, pre-existing medical conditions, or take blood thinners. Discuss any contraindications with a pharmacist or doctor. Seek prompt medical care if throat swelling is severe.

Alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen

For severe throat swelling, some doctors recommend alternating doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen (Tylenol) every 2-3 hours until swelling improves.

This combination therapy can provide more powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It also allows limiting the dosage of each individual medication to reduce side effects.

Carefully follow dosage guidelines and do not exceed maximum daily amounts of either medication. Consult your doctor before trying this alternating regimen for throat swelling relief.

Anti-swelling nasal sprays

Intranasal corticosteroid sprays like Flonase or Rhinocort may also provide some relief from swollen throat tissues during an allergic reaction.

When sprayed into the nasal passages, small amounts get swallowed and absorbed systemically to reduce inflammation. It may take hours or days for the full effects.

Nasal sprays will not treat severe throat swelling that impairs breathing. Use antihistamines or epinephrine in those cases. But nasal sprays can help prevent seasonal allergy flareups.

Potential side effects include nosebleeds, headaches, and irritation. Talk to your doctor about prescription anti-inflammatory nasal spray options for allergies.

Allergy medications for pets

For people with pet allergies, medications can help control allergic reaction throat swelling triggered by exposure to proteins in animal dander, saliva or urine.

Options include:

– Antihistamines like cetirizine (Zyrtec) or loratadine (Claritin) to reduce histamine-mediated swelling.
– Nasal sprays like azelastine (Astelin) or fluticasone (Flonase) to decrease inflammation.
– Allergy shots or tablets to gradually desensitize your immune system to pet allergens.
– Prescription medications like dupilumab (Dupixent) to block overexpression of inflammatory signaling proteins.

Avoiding or limiting contact with pets can also help prevent allergic reactions. Washing hands after touching animals and keeping pets out of bedrooms is recommended. HEPA air filters can capture airborne allergens.

Discuss your allergy management plan with your doctor if you plan to get a new pet. Promptly treat any reactions, as animal allergy symptoms can worsen over time with repeated exposures.

Avoiding allergy triggers

While medications can treat throat swelling from an active allergic reaction, avoiding known allergy triggers is key to preventing a reaction in the first place.

Common precautions include:

Allergen Avoidance tips
Food allergens like peanuts, eggs or shellfish Read food labels carefully, alert restaurants about food allergies, carry emergency epinephrine
Pet dander Keep pets out of bedrooms, vacuum and change HVAC filters regularly, bathe pets weekly, consider allergy shots
Pollen Check daily pollen counts, close windows and use AC on high pollen days, limit time outdoors, shower after being outside
Medications like penicillin or NSAIDs Wear medical alert jewelry, inform all doctors about drug allergies, use alternate medications
Latex Avoid latex gloves, condoms, balloons. Request non-latex medical supplies.
Insect stings Avoid going barefoot, wear light-colored clothing outdoors, keep food covered outside, have epinephrine available

Being aware of your allergy triggers and taking the right precautions can prevent most allergic reactions and keep your throat swelling free.

Seeking medical care

Seek prompt medical care if you develop throat swelling that:

– Comes on suddenly or worsens quickly
– Makes breathing difficult
– Is accompanied by other serious symptoms like trouble breathing, wheezing, tightness in the throat or chest, skin reactions, or fainting.

Severe allergic reactions can become life-threatening without proper treatment. Call 911 or go to an emergency room right away if you suspect anaphylaxis.

See an allergist for testing and diagnosis if you have recurring, unexplained throat swelling during allergy season or in response to certain exposures. They can identify your triggers and tailor treatment recommendations.

Do not ignore symptoms or hesitate to use epinephrine autoinjectors for severe reactions. Managing allergies takes diligence but you can prevent troublesome throat swelling.

When to see an allergist

Consult an allergist if you experience recurrent or severe throat swelling with unknown causes or in response to suspected allergens. Signs it may be time to see a specialist include:

– Swelling that occurs suddenly or repeatedly with certain exposures like eating foods or being around animals
– Antihistamines and other allergy meds provide little to no relief
– You have needed to use epinephrine for severe reactions
– Allergy testing done by primary care was inconclusive
– You have other allergy symptoms like rashes, sinus issues, or asthma

Allergists have specialized training to accurately diagnose the causes of allergic reactions through skin or blood tests. They can provide desensitization treatments like allergy shots and help create personalized management plans to control symptoms and avoid severe reactions.

Do not try to self-diagnose allergies if throat swelling persists or worsens. See an allergist to get to the bottom of your symptoms and find the right treatments.


Allergic reaction throat swelling can be frightening, but a variety of treatments can provide relief. Antihistamines and epinephrine work quickly to reduce swelling while steroids prevent recurrence. Applying cold packs or gargling salt water can temporarily soothe throat irritation. Avoiding known allergy triggers is critical to prevent reactions. See an allergist if swelling is severe or the cause is unknown. With proper management, allergic throat swelling can be controlled and kept from progressing to anaphylaxis.

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