Do you suffer from allergies and experience postnasal drip, usually during the spring? Your allergies may actually be the cause of your uncomfortable postnasal drip.
You have many glands in the body. Some of them are found in the lining of the throat, nose, airways, along the digestive tract. These glands produce mucus that provides lubrication and also helps destroy microbes. These microbes enter the body through the respiratory and digestive tract and cause infections.
You do not notice the mucus because you swallow it along with saliva. However, when certain conditions trigger excess or thicker mucus, you will notice it.
If you have excess mucus in the nasal passages, you call it a runny nose. If the mucus goes from the back of the nose to the throat, you call it postnasal drip.
Postnasal drip is one of the most common causes of a persistent cough, sore throat, and hoarseness. While these symptoms may be an annoyance, they generally are nothing to worry about. Your doctor can easily identify the underlying cause of the postnasal drip and prescribe a treatment for your symptoms.
Causes of Postnasal Drip
If the post nasal drip is caused by allergies, it is called allergic postnasal drip.
For example, seasonal allergies caused by pollen may trigger postnasal drip. This is because the body produces extra mucus in an attempt to eliminate the pollen or other airborne allergens.
Many other conditions create excess mucus or thicker than normal mucus including:
Certain prescription drugs (ex: high blood pressure medication or oral contraceptives)
In some cases, there is a normal amount of mucus, but it doesn’t clear away because of a blockage, acid reflux, or simply part of the aging process.
Symptoms of Postnasal Drip
The key symptom is the feeling of that extra mucus going into the throat. This can cause a feeling of constantly needing to clear your throat or swallow.
You may also experience the feeling of a lump in the throat. Your throat may also feel sore or scratchy. This is due to inflamed tonsils without an infection.
Postnasal drip often triggers a cough that just won’t go away and gets worse at night. In children, a foul-smelling thick mucus from one side of the nose should be examined by a doctor. This may be due to a foreign object stuck in the nose (i.e. piece of a toy).
Mucus is typically clear when it develops due to allergies, colds, and flu or cold weather. A thicker mucus is the effect of extra dry air in heated spaces, food allergies, especially an allergy to cow’s dairy, or nose infections.
Yellowish or greenish mucus may suggest a bacterial infection. However, some viral infections can also change the color of the mucus. Lab tests would have to confirm where there is an infection or not.
Mucus can also cause infections depending on where it is located in the body. Ear infections develop when mucus is in the Eustachian tube, between the throat and middle ear. Sinus infections develop when mucus sits in the sinus passages.
Allergic Postnasal Drip Treatments
The best way to prevent allergic nasal post drip is to manage well the underlying problem – the allergy.
You can treat allergy-induced postnasal drip with medications. These include antihistamines, decongestants, and even steroid nasal sprays.
It is better to use newer antihistamines like loratadine (Claritin) and fexofenadine (Allegra) than older antihistamines, which cause more dryness and also drowsiness.
Decongestant like oxymetazoline (found in Afrin) helps constrict the blood vessels in the nasal passages, leading to fewer secretions. However, these drugs should be taken only for 1-2 days. Guaifenesin (Robitussin), a mucus thinner, helps make secretions thinner and can relieve symptoms.
Doctors will prescribe antibiotics for post nasal drips secondary to bacterial infections. Postnasal drips caused by acid reflux are treated with antacids. You can also elevate the head of the bed 6-8 inches and avoiding food a few hours before bedtime.
Staying well-hydrated is important because it helps thin the mucus and avoids dryness. Your body loses water with that excess mucus. Make sure you drink extra water and consume hot liquids like tea and broths.
Saline solutions or nasal sprays help flush out excess mucus, microbes, and allergens. You can do this with a Neti pot or spray.
There are some easy home remedies you can use too. Add a few pillows when you sleep, to avoid the collection of mucus at the back of the throat. Consider a humidifier for your home, or use steam inhalation, like a hot shower. Ginger tea, peppermint, and eucalyptus oils can also help clear the mucus and reduce inflammation.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Most cases of a postnasal drip are not dangerous and improve with treatment. If you experience the following symptoms, you should call your doctor:
No improvement of symptoms
Symptoms last more than 10 days
With a trip to the doctor, they can determine the correct treatment to help you.
Allergies can cause postnasal drip, but are easily treated. People with seasonal allergies will often experience postnasal drip as pollen enters the air.
While postnasal drip can turn into an ear or sinus infection, it generally is nothing to worry about. Follow the home remedies suggested in this article and use over-the-counter medication to treat your symptoms.