For a lot of people, it is not clear what post nasal drip is. It sounds strange, but in fact it is a common syndrome and one many of us suffer from.
Definition of post nasal drip
In reality, post nasal drip is a condition where excessive mucus accumulates in the back of the nose and throat. It is usually connected to having a sore throat, a significant or regular cough, and a feeling that the throat always needs clearing, giving us the need to heck or cough lightly very regularly. It can be a painful, irritating and often quite embarrassing ailment to suffer from.
Causes of post nasal drip
The causes of post nasal drip are widespread. If you suffer from it, the chances are you are also suffering from at least one of the following syndromes.
- A cold, perhaps quite a bad one, or maybe even the lingering after-effects of a cold
- Sinus issues, and quite possibly a sinus infection
- Flu or a variant of the flu
- Irritants in your environment, particularly in relation to air quality
- Smoke, some odors, and even the side-effects of certain medications
Whatever the actual cause, the effect is to make you feel some interruption to your respiratory system and the overall effectiveness of your breathing. Post nasal drip is often connected to the inflammation in our throat and sinuses that is caused by any of the above factors.
Often, we forget that mucus is produced as a defense, for example, against some allergies, as mucus is designed to help gather up the allergens and then flush them out, but of course it first of all gives us the uncomfortable feeling of the mucus before it does so, and as it drains down the back of the throat we get the feeling of post nasal drip.
Identifying the possible causes is important, as it then helps you identify the best treatments and responses.
Symptoms of Post Nasal Drip
This is among the most common symptoms. You may find your throat is tight, dry and scratchy. This is ironically one of the feelings we can get even though we have excess mucus. The extra strain put on the throat can lead to coughing and hecking that causes a rough feeling to the larynx.
This symptom is also a regular symptom of post nasal drip, perhaps especially if you suffer from allergies. Allergies can sometimes make the inside of the neck feel as if it needs a good scratch, such is the level of irritation. Pollen especially can cause this.
If you have this feeling and are suffering from post nasal drip, then make sure to drink plenty of fluids to help flush out the mucus and keep the throat lubricated. Hydration of the throat will also help reduce the inflammation, as the throat returns to a more normalized state.
This is among the least pleasant symptoms of post nasal drip. Excess mucus is an increased production of what is often gloopy and sticky fluid in the nose that can lead to blocked nasal passages and a sore throat.
Remember, however, that the body naturally produces mucus as a defense against bacteria and viruses, but when this production becomes excessive, it can be disruptive to everyday activities and mucus is one of the clearest of all signs that you are suffering from post nasal drip. Mucus in itself is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but obviously too much of it is a problem.
This is a common ailment many of us have, and it strikes mainly in the morning when we wake up. But if you are suddenly aware of your breath being notably malodorous, it may be that you have post nasal drip and more mucus gathering overnight in your throat and sinuses.
Though it may mean getting up to go to the loo overnight, drinking a warm relaxing drink before you head to sleep can assist your throat in staying moist and not becoming so stale. Having a saline nasal rinse before you go to sleep can also assist in ridding your throat of toxins and gunk and may mean your breath is not so bad in the morning.
Above all, do not slacken on oral hygiene when you are a bit ill. Regular teeth brushing, flossing and mouth rinsing are really important.
Among the most distressing of all symptoms, coughing can be painful and quite frightening. To limit the likelihood of major coughing, ensure to drink plenty of fluids. This helps thin out the mucus and reduce the amount of drainage down your throat, reducing the urge to cough.
If the cough persists, however, using an over-the-counter medication may be necessary. Many are good, and a fine cough suppressant helps reduce the reflexive urge to cough. Over a day or two of use, you should find you cough less, and this in itself will soothe the throat and allow wider healing to take place.
And finally, if all else fails, do not be afraid to speak to your doctor. A course of antibiotics may be required to clear up any bacterial infection that could be causing the post nasal drip.
How to Prevent Post Nasal Drip
Keep your environment clean
This does not necessarily mean core hygiene, though that is obviously very important generally.
More specifically, when we say a clean environment, we mean one that is freer of allergens and irritants in the air of the type that can cause inflammation in the nasal passages and lead to nasal drip.
Dust regularly, clear up any pet hairs regularly, vacuum dusty areas, and if you really want to ensure a good air quality, invest in an air filter machine. These can be expensive, but they do a good job of keeping air quality high.
Take over-the-counter antihistamines as required
These medicines are widely available, effective and relatively cheap. It is always useful to have some at home or work. Their efficacy lies in their ability to block the action of histamine, which is a chemical that causes allergy-like symptoms including nasal congestion, sneezing, and post nasal drip. For many people they are enormously helpful, especially in summer when pollen allergies are highest.
Avoid or limit your use of dairy products
This is not a point that works for everyone, but for many people post nasal drip seems to worsen after consuming dairy products. In fact, there is science to this. Dairy products are mucus- producing, which can increase the amount of nasal secretion you experience. Though they are not unhealthy products, they can nonetheless cause some feeling of heaviness in the sinuses and clog the throat, especially yogurts and cheeses. Professional singers will, for example, even if they are healthy, almost never take dairy products before a performance, as the nature of dairy lies heavily on the throat, at least in the hour or so after eating them.
Be aware of this area. It may genuinely surprise you, but it could prove very useful.
Drink plenty of fluids
There is no doubt that good hydration helps against post nasal drip. The hydration dilutes the mucus and breaks up the feelings of heaviness in your throat.
However, it matters what you drink. Make sure most of what you drink is either water; low sugar teas, such as camomile, hibiscus, lemon or any major herbal tea; green teas; and modest amounts of fresh fruit juice. If you drink small amounts of caffeinated drinks it will do some good, but not as much as these other options, so try to move away from coffee, fizzy drinks and high sugar and high caffeine energy drinks. These are not going to optimize your recovery.
The benefit of drinking plenty of fluids when you are unwell is that it helps to thin out the mucus in your sinuses, making it easier to blow your nose or cough out the mucus and sinus gunk. It can therefore reduce the amount of post nasal drip that you experience.
Use a humidifier or vaporizer
There is significant evidence that adding moisture to the air can help thin mucus and reduce post nasal drip. One way is to use a humidifier or vaporizer, and by running it in your bedroom while you sleep you potentially aid your recovery overnight. This is because you are adding extra moisture to the air throughout the night, allowing you to breathe more easily. As it is often drier air that stimulates us to cough, the more gently moist the air we sleep in, the less likely we are to suffer.
Avoid certain foods and drinks
It is not just dairy that can trigger post nasal drip. For some people, there are other trigger foods.
Dairy, caffeine, chocolate, processed foods, and alcohol are all recognized as common triggers for some people. It is worth checking your own symptoms in relation to diet. You may find there are common patterns you can identify.
There is actually science to this, as the reality is that many of these foodstuffs contain histamines, or other compounds that can make the lining of the nose swell and produce extra mucus. It really is therefore wise to monitor your post nasal drip experiences and your diet in conjunction. You may be surprised to find that it is dairy, or too many low nutrition processed foods that cause your symptoms.
Limit exposure to irritants like smoke, strong odors, and cold air
This really is important. It is very often our environment that is the problem.
To lessen the risk of post nasal drip taking hold, avoid places where smoking is allowed or where there are strong odors. This could include places like bars, certain restaurants, and certain workplaces.
In addition, in cold weather make sure to cover your mouth and nose, especially in crowded cold places where ventilation is poor. Ventilation is necessary, no matter the weather, so be sure to allow some airflow wherever you are. It makes illness much less likely.
How to Treat Post Nasal Drip
See your doctor
Though it may be the case that your post nasal drip passes quite quickly, if it lingers or occurs very frequently, you are wise to see a doctor.
With frequent occurrences, it may be that it is caused by an infection, allergies, or existing medications. Seeing your doctor can help you determine what is causing your post nasal drip and how best to treat it.
Adapt your lifestyle
The onus may fall on you! If you are not living healthily, and not exercising to stay fit, or eating well, then you may need to adapt your lifestyle. It is often we ourselves who can make the most change, not the doctor giving us a pill.
Be bold and make sure to look hard at how you are living. If you are not living a healthy lifestyle with enough nutrition, fruit, vegetables, exercise and all round balance, then your body will tell you so. Post nasal drip may be a sign you need to adapt your lifestyle to improve your wellbeing.
You may benefit from adapting your diet, so that you limit post nasal foods, or spicy foods, which can also stimulate the sinuses. Giving up on alcohol and smoking will also make a hugely positive difference to your health and your susceptibility to being unwell, whether with post nasal drip or other sinus related illnesses.
Use decongestant sprays or tablets
Another way to stop post nasal drip is of course to use decongestant sprays or tablets. They work by reducing the amount of swelling and inflammation in the tissue lining your nose, which will almost certainly help to reduce mucus production and prevent post nasal drip.
Take antibiotics, if prescribed
If you have been prescribed medication, especially antibiotics, it is important that you follow the course and do not stop just because symptoms alleviate after a day or two. The full course will help to get to the root of the illness and will address causes and not just effects.
That said, they are not always necessary for everyone, so respect the doctor’s advice if that advice is that you do not need them and that your condition will rectify itself without drugs.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays
As we know, reducing inflammation when you have post nasal drip is important. Corticosteroid nasal sprays do just that and help clear blocked nasal passages and deal with the wide range of post nasal drip symptoms. They also reduce thick mucus, making it easier to breathe. Many people find them more effective than decongestants and antihistamines when it comes to relieving a stuffy nose, due to their increased strength.
Generally, corticosteroid sprays are safe for short-term use in treating post nasal drip. However, prolonged use can have some side effects, as with all steroidal treatments, so make sure to use them only for a short period of time.
These can be an outstanding way to address post nasal drip symptoms. They work by interfering with the body’s reactions to allergens and various external stimuli that can cause headaches, sneezing and a general feeling of irritation in your nose. They also work on inflammation and therefore reduce the feeling of blockage in your sinuses and throat, as when you have post nasal drip your sinuses, and often your throat, become inflamed.
Some commonly available types of antihistamines include loratadine, cetirizine and diphenhydramine. Though it can be tempting to think they are all the same, in fact some work better for some people than others, so you may need to try the different types until you find the one that is most effective for you personally.
They are also not always the same price, so check that out too.
Post nasal drip symptoms can be readily treated, and if you take this advice you will see your symptoms end more quickly than they would if you did nothing. But remember to stay healthy generally, so that you can prevent any further cases of post nasal drip!