Post nasal drip is described as the overproduction and noticeable accumulation of mucus in the back of the nose down and into the throat.
Under normal conditions, the glands in the back of the nose and throat produce enough mucus to lubricate and protect against viruses, bacteria, and other irritants. In most cases, people are unaware of the bodily function and typically just swallow the mucus without thought.
However, under abnormal conditions, such as when triggered by allergies, illness, or chronic rhinitis, those glands start to produce extra mucus that can build up and be difficult to get rid of.
Signs and symptoms of post nasal drip can include a frequent urge to swallow or clear one’s throat, a raspy or gurgly voice, an irritated throat, and a persistent cough.
- Post nasal drip is relatively common, affecting almost everyone at some point.
- Post nasal drip is the most commonly reported symptom of chronic rhinosinusitis. [*]
- Post nasal drip is often considered a symptom stemming from other conditions, such allergic rhinitis, rather than a separate syndrome. [*]
- Post nasal drip is sometimes associated with (or results from) upper respiratory symptoms caused by acid reflux, also known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). [*]
- Post nasal drip is most commonly treated with over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants, though home remedies, such as chicken soup, are believed to provide relief. [*][*]
What Causes Post Nasal Drip?
There are numerous possible causes for the excessive accumulation and drainage of mucus associated with post nasal drip. Post nasal drip is often considered a symptom of conditions, such as:
- A cold or flu
- Allergies (especially seasonal allergies)
- Sinus infection or sinusitis
- Object or debris lodged in the nose
- Certain medications (birth control and blood pressure medications)
- Deviated septum
- Weather conditions (sudden changes or dryness)
- Certain foods (especially spicy foods)
- Off-gases from chemicals, perfumes, cleaning products, smoke, or other irritants
- Chronic respiratory conditions, such as COPD
- Vasomotor rhinitis (a heightened sensitivity to stimuli)
What Are The Symptoms Of Post Nasal Drip?
Post nasal drip is most commonly identified by the accumulation and drainage of mucus down the back of the nose and throat. People who experience post nasal drip may have other common symptoms, including:
- A frequently clearing of the throat
- A sore or scratchy throat
- A feeling like a lump or something stuck in the throat
- A cough or hack that is often worse in the evening
- Constant spitting or swallowing of mucus
- A feeling of nausea due to excessive mucus in the stomach
- Bad breath
How Long Does Post Nasal Drip Last?
Post nasal drip that is caused by viral infections, such as the cold or flu, could last for weeks or longer, depending on the type of treatment and a person’s immune response. Whereas, post nasal drip caused by seasonal allergies may cause symptoms to flare up suddenly and disappear after just a short time.
Post nasal drip that occurs as a result of medications should be discussed with a healthcare professional. Typically, symptoms of post nasal drip will disappear shortly after a person has stopped taking the medication. WARNING: Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medications.
Chronic sinusitis patients may experience recurring post nasal drip for months or longer.
The duration of post nasal drip often depends on two important factors: the cause and the treatment. Post nasal drip is more or less a symptom of other conditions, with some ailments taking longer to get rid of than others.
In many cases, the duration, severity, and/or frequency of post nasal drip can be lessened and controlled through one/or a combination of natural, over-the-counter, and prescription remedies. Consult a physician for more information and options related to the underlying causes and treatments for specific cases of post nasal drip.
How To Tell The Difference Between Post Nasal Drip And COVID-19?
Post nasal drip is often considered a symptom of other illnesses and conditions, such as the common cold or seasonal allergies. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Although COVID-19 affects people differently, post nasal drip is not considered a typical reaction to the virus. However, other similar symptoms associated with post nasal drip, such as a sore throat, congestion, and coughing, are also associated with COVID-19.
If you are concerned about your health and are experiencing symptoms of post nasal drip or COVID-19, please consult your physician immediately for professional advice.
What Are The Treatments For Post Nasal Drip?
The treatment for post nasal drip depends mainly on the root cause of the symptoms (i.e. bacterial, viral, environmental, etc…). Post nasal drip can be attributed to any one of several possible conditions, including seasonal allergies and the common cold. As a result, different treatments are required to remedy the root cause.
However, home remedies, over-the-counter medications, natural/alternative methods, prevention techniques, and prescription medications are commonly used to provide relief from post nasal drip symptoms.
How To Stop Post Nasal Drip?
Common treatments for getting rid of post nasal drip symptoms include:
- Guaifenesin (Mucinex)
- Nasal sprays
- Nasal irrigation, Nasal Nebulizer
- Nasal hygiene
- Humidifiers, steam vaporizers, hot showers
- Propping up the head when sleeping
- Staying hydrated
- Chicken soup
If symptoms persist or worsen, doctors may prescribe medications, including nasal sprays to inhibit mucus production.
In certain cases, if the root cause is determined to be bacterial, antibiotics may be prescribed by a healthcare professional.
How To Sleep With Post Nasal Drip?
Sleeping with post nasal drip and all the accompanying symptoms can be difficult. To relieve some of the congestion, pressure, and excessive mucus buildup, try implementing a daily sleep and nasal hygiene routine.[*]
For example, you may want to add a steamy shower or hot bath at the end of the day to not only wash away dust and pollen but also clear up congestion and help you breathe better.
You could also try rinsing your sinuses before bed to loosen up and clear away additional allergens or bacteria, as well as thick or sticky mucus.
Here are some additional tips on how to sleep better at night with post nasal drip and sinus congestion:
- Sleep on your side
- Keep the air quality clean
- Irrigate and moisturize your sinuses
- Adjust the temperature, keep it cool
- Prop your head up with a pillow
For additional sleep support, you may want to maintain a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Avoid television, smart phones, and other distractions just before bed to help you fall asleep faster. And, avoid alcohol and other foods and beverages high in histamine, especially at night.[*]
How To Stop Post Nasal Drip Cough?
One of the most commonly reported symptoms along with post nasal drip is a persistent cough. In many cases, over-the-counter medications and home remedies are used to treat both the cause of the cough and the accompanying sore throat.
Nasal irrigation and nasal sprays are also used to combat post nasal drip cough. “Washing out” congested sinuses with a saline nasal spray can help remove excess mucus by thinning it and rinsing it away. Some older methods of sinus irrigation include neti pots and spray bottles. More advanced nasal rinsing and medication delivery systems are now available and work more effectively by cleansing the sinuses intranasally.
When To See A Doctor For Post Nasal Drip?
In most cases, post nasal drip is not immediately dangerous. However, if post nasal drip symptoms persist for more than 10 days, it’s recommended to contact a healthcare professional for a diagnosis and treatment recommendations
Contact a doctor or healthcare professional if you have any of the following symptoms along with post nasal drip:
- Blood in your mucus
- Fever, dizziness, or unexplained fatigue
- Difficulty breathing
- Foul Breath or Odor
In some cases, doctors may test for acid reflux, also known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), as this can mimic or present similar symptoms to post nasal drip.
When visiting your doctor for post nasal drip, you may want to ask the following questions:
- What is the cause of my post-nasal drip?
- What changes in my symptoms, if any, should I be watching out for?
- Is there a need to worry about serious complications as a result of post nasal drip?