Mucus is a thick, wet substance that keeps your nose, throat, airways, stomach and intestinal track moist. It also helps trap and destroy bacteria and viruses to prevent infections. Every day, your nose alone produces about a quart of mucus.
Normally, you don’t notice mucus at all because it mixes with saliva and drains down the back of the throat. When your body produces more mucus than it needs, however, it can drain out the nostrils or down the back of the throat – this is called postnasal drip.
What Causes Postnasal Drip?
There are many potential triggers for postnasal drip, including:
- Sinus infection
- Foreign object in the nose
- Certain medications
- Deviated septum
- Changing weather/dry air
- Certain foods
- Fumes from chemicals, perfumes, cleaning agents and smoke
Sometimes postnasal drip is caused by overproduction of mucus, but it can also be caused by regular amounts of mucus that do not clear away properly. For example, swallowing disorders can cause a buildup of fluid in the throat.
What Are the Symptoms of Postnasal Drip?
Postnasal drip typically makes you feel like you need to constantly clear your throat. It can also cause a cough that is usually worse at night. Other symptoms include:
- Hoarse voice
- Sore/scratchy throat
- Ear infection
- Sinus infection
How Is Postnasal Drip Treated?
The treatment for postnasal drip depends on the underlying cause.
If you have an infection, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to clear it up.
If you have a cold or the flu, decongestants can help ease symptoms. Getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids will help you kick your illness faster.
Postnasal drip caused by allergies can be managed with OTC antihistamines and decongestants. Note that older antihistamines like Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton can actually thicken mucus; instead, try Claritin, Alavert, Allegra, Zyrtec, Xyzal or Clarinex. Long-term treatment for allergies includes allergy shots and allergy drops.
It is helpful when you have postnasal drip to try to thin your mucus. The easiest way to do this is to drink lots of water. You can also use a humidifier to increase the moisture in the air.
Irrigating the nasal passages with a saline nasal spray or Neti pot can flush out mucus, bacteria, allergens and other irritants that cause postnasal drip.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call CENTA Medical Group.