You cough and sneeze and your throat is sore. You can feel mucus dripping in the back of your throat and swallowing it all the time is uncomfortable and frustrating. This condition is called a post-nasal drip and is more common than you may think.
This happens to everyone, most often as a result of some other health condition. Cold weather, flu, air with harmful particles, or allergic reaction can cause this issue.
Although it may bother you, a post-nasal drip shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying your regular activities. Symptoms of post-nasal drip are not long-term, and you can treat them. If you wonder how to stop a post-nasal drip, read on.
What Is a Post-Nasal Drip?
Your body creates mucus every day. It appears in the intestinal tract, throat, nose, and other parts of the body. Mucus makes these areas wet and prevents viruses, bacteria, and other harmful substances from entering your body.
When it mixes with saliva, mucus drips into the back of the throat where you swallow it. Most days, you probably do not notice this. However, the problem begins when the body starts producing additional mucus due to an underlying health problem.
This excess of mucus, thicker and stickier, will pile up in the back of your throat. Because it runs down your throat more than usual, it can cause discomfort. This is called a post-nasal drip. Sore throat and cough are the primary symptoms.
Main Causes of Post-Nasal Drip
The main cause of a post-nasal drip is the accumulation of mucus in the back wall of your throat. But why does your body produce so much mucus in the first place? Usually, the additional mucus appears when the immune system wants to fight off some perceived threat. The main causes are:
- Common cold and flu
- Sinus infection and inflammation
- Irritant particles in the air (dust, chemicals, fumes, smoke, fog)
- Some medications
- Weather, especially dry and cold air
- Deviated septum (when the cartilage wall that separates two nostrils leans more to one side of the nose)
- Nasal polyp (swelling in the nose)
- Spicy food
Sometimes a mucus buildup may form not because your body creates more, but because it is unable to get rid of it. Some conditions like the inability to swallow properly, clogging, or gastric reflux can cause a post-nasal drip.
How Do You Know You Have It?
You can’t miss a post-nasal drip. When that much mucus piles up in your throat, you feel like you have to clear it.
Since mucus traps harmful particles, it contains some inflammatory elements. Too much of it can irritate your throat and make it sore. This also triggers a cough that may get worse at night.
In more serious cases, it can block the Eustachian tube which links your throat to the middle ear. If it blocks the sinuses, they can get infected. This doesn’t happen as often as cough and sore throat, though.
How to Stop a Post-Nasal Drip
The treatment of post-nasal drip usually depends on what’s causing it. Most of the time, the symptoms go away on their own. However, in some cases, you may need one of the following medications:
- Antibiotics are good for clearing up bacterial infections but are not useful against the cold.
- For sinusitis and viral infections, antihistamines and decongestants may prove to be effective.
- Saline nasal sprays can treat the symptoms of a post-nasal drip. Sometimes you can combine the saline spray with cortisol steroid nasal spray. This is recommended when fighting allergies.
In addition to medication, you can also try one of the following natural remedies:
- Drinking a lot of water helps reduce the thickness of the mucus and alleviate the symptoms. Herbal tea, chicken soup, and other warm liquids can help you recover faster.
- Neti pots and sinus rinses can help you get rid of parts of mucus and harmful bacteria they may contain.
- Protect your bed sheets with hypoallergenic covers. Maybe the post-nasal drip is an allergic reaction and you don’t know it.
- Wash all the covers, pillows, pillowcases, and mattresses in hot water to get rid of irritants.
- Dust and vacuum regularly. Dusty and dirty air may be the cause of extra mucus.
- Sleep on raised pillows to elevate your head and keep mucus from accumulating in the back of the throat.
- Use a humidifier or a vaporizer to moisten the air and clear it. Using special HEPA air filters may prove to be beneficial. Also, stay out of cold air and avoid inhaling it.
- Try taking a hot shower. The steam inhalation will thin the mucus and clear up your nasal passages.
Is It Time to Visit a Doctor?
A post-nasal drip is usually not a cause for concern. Having some patience and using natural remedies and over-the-counter medication to reduce the symptoms should be enough.
If the symptoms don’t go away after more than ten days despite the treatment, the issue may be more serious. As such, you should consult with your doctor.
You should also see your doctor if:
- You have a fever or are wheezing (both are signs of a bacterial infection which may require prescription medication)
- There is blood in the mucus
- The OTC medications don’t reduce the symptoms
- Your mucus has a distinct smell
These symptoms may be the sign that there’s an underlying issue your doctor should examine and treat.
A post-nasal drip is a common occurrence and one of the first signals of a viral or bacterial infection. It also occurs as your body’s reaction to some external particles. Cold or dry air, pollen, fumes, or dust may all be responsible for this condition.
This occurrence may be discomforting, but it is usually not serious. In some situations, you should consult with your doctor to prescribe you some medications or run some tests.
A post-nasal drip can be very persistent, and sometimes it could even take weeks for the symptoms to go away completely. Patience is of essence here. If you develop a post-nasal drip, the best you can do is to prepare a bowl of soup and some warm water and wait for the symptoms to subside.