We’ve all experienced it: that nasty feeling when mucus drains down your throat. This problem is known as postnasal drip and it can also kick-up a variety of other unpleasant symptoms. While our throat and nasal passages are always producing mucus to protect against foreign invaders and to fight infections, sometimes the body produces too much mucus, which results in postnasal drip. Find out what causes postnasal drip and how an ENT doctor can help you manage this unpleasant symptom.
What are the signs of postnasal drip?
Along with extra mucus draining from the nose into the back of your throat, other signs of postnasal drip include:
- Persistent cough, often worse at night
- A need to constantly clear your throat
- Scratchy or sore throat
- Painful ear infections
- Sinus infections
- Bad breath
- Nausea (due to mucus going into the stomach)
What causes postnasal drip?
So, what is triggering all that unwanted and excess mucus that’s now draining down your throat? There are a few possible reasons such as:
- A cold or flu
- Dry, cold air
- Changes in weather
- Deviated septum (a common malformation in the nasal wall that separates the two cavities)
- Certain medications (e.g., blood pressure medication; birth control)
- Chemicals and environmental irritants (e.g., perfumes; smoke)
How is postnasal drip treated?
At-home care and over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines may alleviate your postnasal drip, especially if it is caused by allergies. Saline nasal sprays and neti pots can also provide moisture to the nasal passages. Sleep with your head slightly propped up and make sure that you are staying hydrated throughout the day.
If you’re dealing with recurring postnasal drip, postnasal drip that lasts more than 10 days, or postnasal drip that’s accompanied by fever or green discharge (signs of a bacterial infection), you must turn to an ENT doctor for the appropriate medication and treatment. If a bacterial infection is present, your ENT will prescribe a round of antibiotics. Structural issues such as a deviated septum can only be corrected through surgery.
If other conditions such as acid reflux could be to blame, a doctor can run the right diagnostic tests to determine the cause and to provide you with a custom treatment plan to get your postnasal drip in check.