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Post-nasal drip is the accumulation of mucus, usually in your sinuses, that moves down the back of the nose into the throat. It can be an annoying and disruptive condition, but one that’s treatable by post-nasal drip remedies, both pharmaceutical and natural.
Your body makes about one to two quarts of mucus every day to help trap and destroy foreign particles like dust, bacteria, and viruses before they can cause infection. Often, this mucus mixes with your salvia and drips normally down the back of your throat and is then swallowed.
However, your body sometimes may produce excess mucus, which makes the drip more noticeable—hence the need for post-nasal drip remedies.
Post-nasal drip symptoms typically include difficulty swallowing. Here’s what’s behind that problem, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS):
- With age, swallowing muscles often lose strength and coordination, making it difficult for even normal secretions to pass smoothly into the stomach.
- During sleep, swallowing occurs much less frequently, and secretions may gather. Coughing and vigorous throat clearing are often needed upon waking.
- When nervous or under stress, throat muscles can trigger spasms that make it feel as if there is a lump in the throat. Frequent throat clearing, which usually produces little or no mucus, can make the problem worse by increasing irritation.
- Growths or swelling in the food passage can slow or prevent the movement of liquids and/or solids.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) also can cause swallowing problems. GERD involves the backup of stomach contents and acid into the esophagus or throat. (Click here for our post “What Is GERD?“)
Causes and Symptoms of Post-Nasal Drip
Common causes of post-nasal drip include colds and flus, allergies, sinus infections, and deviated septum. Other causes are medications, such as blood pressure medications and birth control pills, along with spicy foods and fumes from chemicals, smoke, and other similar irritants.
Post-nasal drip symptoms can include a stuffy nose, the persistent need to cough up phlegm, and a hard-to-shake sore throat. Postnasal drip can cause hoarseness and the constant feeling you have something in your throat.
Treatment: Post-Nasal Drip Remedies
Post-nasal drip remedies depend on what’s causing the problem. For instance, bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Antihistamines and decongestants can help with postnasal drip caused by viral infections. They are also used with steroid medications for drips caused by allergies.
Be mindful that some older antihistamines brands may dry and thicken post-nasal secretions even more. Check with your doctor about recommendations for post-nasal drip remedies.
Increasing your intake of fluids, especially for older people, can dilute secretions so they pass more easily. Avoiding caffeine and, with your doctor’s approval, diuretics (fluid-eliminating drugs) also can help.
Keeping your environment free of dust and irritants can reduce your risk of post-nasal drip. For instance:
- Wash all sheets, pillowcases, and mattress covers often, and in hot water.
- Use special HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestance) air filters in your home.
- Dust and vacuum on a regular basis.
Originally published in May 2016 and updated.