Did you know? The glands of your nose and throat produce up to two quarts of mucus a day. Yikes. Mucus can be yucky (not a technical medical term) but it actually performs important work such as humidifying and purifying air before it reaches your lungs and breathing passageways. It also plays an important role in clearing away foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses before they can get into your body and cause an infection. Normally, you’re not aware of this process because the mucus mixes with saliva and drips harmlessly down the back of your throat, and is swallowed slowly throughout the day. When your body produces more mucus than usual, you may experience a runny nose with excess mucus coming out of the front of your nose. When the mucus instead runs down the back of your nose and into your throat to the point where you can feel it, it’s called post-nasal drip.
What causes post-nasal drip?
The excess mucus production that triggers post-nasal drip may be caused by a number of conditions including
- Sinus infection or sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses)
- Hormonal changes, such as pregnancy
- Certain medications (including birth control pills and high blood pressure medications)
- A deviated septum (misalignment of the wall that separates the two nostrils) or another anatomical problem that interferes with the normal production and easy flow of mucus
- Changing weather fronts, cold temperatures, or excessive dryness in the air
- Certain foods, including ones that are spicy
- Environmental irritants, including chemicals, perfumes, cleaning products, and smoke
What are the symptoms of post-nasal drip?
Post-nasal drip can create several annoying symptoms, including:
- A tickling feeling that makes you want to constantly clear your throat
- Sore throat
- Coughing, which often gets worse at night. Post-nasal drip is the most common cause of chronic cough.
- Ear infection if mucus plugs up your Eustachian tube, which connects the throat and the middle ear
- Sinus infection if your sinus passages become plugged by mucus
What are the treatments for post-nasal drip?
Our first step in treating post-nasal drip is to accurately diagnose the cause of the problem. Self-diagnosis can be difficult for patients, because symptoms can have multiple causes. For example, if your mucus secretions are thick and yellow or greenish, that could be an indication that you have a bacterial infection. However, colds can also cause yellow or green mucus, and they’re caused by viruses, which won’t be helped by antibiotics.
Whatever your condition, if you are finding that your post-nasal drip is becoming a problem that interferes with your comfort, we can help. Dr. Farhad Sigari is a trained expert in the full range of ear, nose and throat conditions and we have seen dozens if not hundreds of cases just like yours. Del Rey Sinus & Allergy Institute can recommend an informed course of treatment.
Antihistamines – which reduce or block chemicals called histamines and thus reduce allergy symptoms – can help with post-nasal drip that’s caused by sinusitis and viral infections. Decongestants – which relieve swelling in your nasal passages – may also be helpful. For post-nasal drip caused by allergies, antihistamines and decongestants may be used along with steroid medications that can reduce stuffiness and swelling and nasal sprays that help keep your nasal passages clear.
Another treatment for post-nasal drip is to thin your mucus. Mucus can have different consistencies, and if it’s thick, it can be stickier and harder to drain, causing you more discomfort. Keeping the mucus thin can help prevent blockages in the ears and sinuses, which can lead to infection.
You can do this by drinking more water and using a humidifier or vaporizer or by taking a hot shower.
To learn more about your condition, explore our site or make an appointment now.