What is Post-Nasal Drip and How can it be Controlled?

woman in a bright yellow blouse looks uncomfortable and holds her throat while working on a laptop.

It can be really aggravating to have a constant tickle in the back of your throat. No amount of coughing or throat clearing seems to do any good, and sometimes, you develop a sore throat and hoarseness. You’re not actually sick but something is definitely up. The likely cause is too much mucus, triggering post-nasal drip. Here’s how you can understand and get relief from this common condition.

What activates post-nasal drip?

Mucus is essential for protecting our nose and throat from infections. However, when the body generates too much mucus, it frequently drips down the back of the throat, causing post-nasal drip.

Conditions including allergies, sinus infections, and the common cold can all cause post-nasal drip. Swelling in the nasal passages, triggered by viral or bacterial infections, allergies, or airborne irritants, can also increase mucus production, resulting in congestion and post-nasal drip.

Here are a few other factors that can contribute to post-nasal drip:

  • Bright lights: Mucus is, for some people, triggered by very bright light.
  • Spicy foods: Spicy foods can temporarily increase mucus production.
  • Cold and dry air: These conditions can promote the production of mucus.
  • Certain medications: Medications, including high blood pressure medicine and birth control pills, can boost the production of mucus.
  • Pregnancy: Hormonal changes can result in increased mucus.
  • Aging: Our bodies will produce more mucus as we get older.
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease): This condition can cause stomach acids to back up into the throat, increasing mucus production.

While many people experience post-nasal drip on occasion, it can become chronic for others. Getting some advice from an ENT specialist is the best strategy when this takes place.

Typical post-nasal drip symptoms

Post-nasal drip can manifest with various symptoms, the most prevalent of which include:

  • Frequent swallowing: Excess mucus often leads to a constant need to swallow.
  • Bad breath: When mucus accumulates, bad breath can be the result.
  • Throat clearing: Needing to constantly clear the throat.
  • Sore throat: Persistent irritation in the throat.
  • Coughing: Particularly noticeable at night.

In extreme cases, post-nasal drip can cause nausea and vomiting because of mucus getting into the stomach. Painful ear infections can also take place when the eustachian tubes (tubes that connect the throat and nose to the middle ear) get blocked.

Treating post-nasal drip effectively

Both at-home and professional treatments can help alleviate post-nasal drip.

Home remedies

  • Use humidifiers and nasal steamers: You can stop mucus from thickening by adding moisture to the air.
  • Nasal irrigation: Mucus can be cleared out with a saline solution.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and hot liquids to thin out the mucus.
  • Elevate your head: Sleeping with your head raised can prevent mucus from pooling in your throat.
  • Avoid caffeine and diuretics: These can cause dehydration and thicker mucus.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications: Antihistamines including Claritin, Xyzal, Allegra, and Zyrtec, as well as decongestants like Sudafed, can be helpful. Other popular options include Mucinex and Benadryl.

Be certain to only use OTC medications in accordance with manufacturers instructions.

When to see an ENT specialist

You should certainly contact us if OTC medications and at-home solutions aren’t helping. Treatment options will depend on the root cause but may include prescription-strength nasal sprays or other targeted solutions.

Preventing post-nasal drip

Taking preventive measures can help minimize the frequency of post-nasal drip:

  • Shower at night: Especially if you’ve been outdoors during the day, to remove allergens.
  • Avoid allergens: Allergens that activate symptoms should be avoided when possible.
  • Change filters regularly: Regularly switch out HVAC filters to maintain clean air circulation.
  • Use daily allergy medications: Sometimes, taking a daily allergy pill can be helpful.
  • Keep a clean environment: Keep your living space as clean and free of dust as you can.

Contact us today so we can help you with persistent post-nasal drip particularly if OTC solutions aren’t helping.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Questions? Talk To Us.