Post-nasal drip occurs when the body produces extra mucus, which accumulates in the throat and causes discomfort. Mucus is important because it keeps the nasal lining clean and fights off infections, but too much of it can cause post-nasal drip or rhinorrhea. This is a common symptom associated with colds, allergies, and sinus infections. People typically swallow mucus without noticing, but the feeling of mucus dripping down the throat can be unpleasant and irritating.
Many conditions cause post-nasal drip, such as allergies or a deviated septum. A smaller nasal passage can make it more difficult for mucus to drain properly, while sinus and viral infections may also prompt the issue. Airborne irritants like dust and smoke can generate thick mucus buildup, too. Some people experience post-nasal drip after encountering cold, dry air, but the condition is usually temporary. The regular drip of mucus creates an uncomfortable feeling in the throat, regardless of the cause.
People with sinusitis typically have post-nasal drip; over four million physician visits with symptoms like post-nasal drip are diagnosed as chronic sinus inflammation every year. Not only may the nose be runny or blocked, but that mucus buildup can back up into the throat with an annoying drip. While post-nasal drip can clear up on its own in many cases, people who experience regular sinus inflammation may want to use at-home remedies or visit their doctor when they have another flare-up.
Many people realize they have post-nasal drip by the sensation of mucus sliding down their throat. Other signs include the urge to keep clearing the throat and feeling a throat tickle or cough coming on. The person may develop a congested nose, irritated throat, and raspy voice. Some feel a lump in the throat. Once the post-nasal drip is treated, these related symptoms usually subside.
A simple trick to soothe post-nasal drip is drinking more water. Consuming an adequate amount of water every day will help to thin out mucus and moisten nasal passages, alleviating some symptoms. Many people report less pressure and quicker relief from post-nasal drip when they drink lots of water. Studies show that keeping hydrated with warm beverages like tea or chicken noodle soup can speed up nasal mucus velocity, too.
Antibiotics can treat post-nasal drip stemming from bacterial infections, and a doctor may prescribe them along with decongestants. With more than 30 million Americans affected by sinus infections, antibiotics are in high demand to relieve symptoms like post-nasal drip. People will see the greatest results with this treatment if they keep up with their daily antibiotic dose until the course is done, even if they feel better earlier.
Another treatment option is a nasal spray. Doctors recommend saltwater spray, as the saline base can thin mucus and get rid of allergens. Many people find relief from post-nasal drip with a nasal spray, but if the symptoms persist, doctors may prescribe a cortisone steroid spray. These high-strength sprays will treat inflammation and keep mucus under control, but should only be used as prescribed.
Allergies affect upwards of 50 million Americans annually, and post-nasal drip is a typical symptom. People with regular allergies may be prescribed antihistamine medication in the form of nasal sprays or tablets. This medicine can alleviate allergy symptoms and post-nasal drip while also preventing future flare-ups.
Allergy testing is another option for post-nasal drip cases when doctors suspect allergies. Aside from antihistamines or other medications, if a person can actively avoid whatever they are allergic to, their symptoms should ease or subside. Allergies are the sixth leading source of chronic illness affecting Americans and are therefore the cause of a significant number of post-nasal drip cases.
Sometimes, post-nasal drip returns often or persists for weeks at a time. If quick treatments aren’t working, people may need to undergo a nasal endoscopy. Doctors use a tiny camera to take a closer look inside the nose and throat, where they may find hidden problems like nasal polyps or the source of infections. Once these issues are diagnosed, a successful treatment plan can be established.
Many people find that at-home or over-the-counter treatments fix their post-nasal drip symptoms. Others still struggle with constant discomfort from post-nasal drip, which an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor could address. Anyone who has post-nasal drip and notices bloody mucus or wheezing should consult their doctor. The sooner that post-nasal drip and related symptoms are looked at, the sooner this mucus buildup can be treated successfully.
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