What is Post-Nasal Drip?

As we breathe, the mucus glands located within nose, pharynx, trachea and bronchi continuously produces mucus secretions. This thick and wet mucus secretion keeps the nose, pharynx and airways moistened. The thick mucus secretion traps the bacteria and viruses as well as foreign bodies, and prevents them entering into body through the layers of endothelial cells lining nasal cavity and airways.

Usually, the liquid like thin nasal mucus secretion drips into throat and is often unnoticeable. The secretion eventually gets mixed with the saliva of the mouth and gets swallowed into stomach. However, when the body produces too much of thick mucus secretion within nose and throat it causes difficulties in breathing and swallowing. The nasal secretion runs in front and back of nasal cavity. The nasal discharge is known as runny nose when mucosal secretion runs through the nasal cavity outside the nose. Thin or thick nasal discharge also runs behind the nasal cavity such discharges are known as Post-Nasal Drip. Post-nasal drip causes symptoms because of collection of mucosa into the throat and irritation of throat as well as larynx. The condition is called the Post-Nasal drip.

What is Post-Nasal Drip?

What Causes Post-Nasal Drip?

There are various causes behind your excessive mucus production and Post-Nasal drip. The common causes are –

  • Flu
  • Cold
  • Sinus infection
  • Allergies
  • Spicy foods
  • Changing weather
  • Certain medicines
  • Hormonal changes
  • Pregnancy
  • Deviated septum
  • Irritants like smoke, fumes, perfume etc.

How Long Does Post-Nasal Drip Last?

Post-nasal drip is a very irritating condition and whenever one suffers from this condition, one wants to get rid of it as soon as possible. However, post-nasal drip usually doesn't go away very fast. In most of the cases, Post-Nasal drip may last for several days. Unfortunately, exactly how long it will last, depends on cause of increased mucosal secretion, amount of secretion and thickness of secretion. Though it varies in each case, it can well be said that the cause of the condition has much to do with its impact and longevity. The sooner the underlying cause is treated, the sooner Post-Nasal drip will disappear. The increased secretion caused by pollen or dust allergies may last for long period of time during the pollen season. Usually, if the Post-Nasal drip is a result of flu, cold or a sinus infection, it will last roughly for about a week. The secretion of mucosa reduces once the infection is controlled with antiviral or antibiotic medications. In contrary, of course, if the condition is too serious and if treatment is delayed, it will last longer. However, in case the cause of the Post-Nasal drip is a hormonal changes or the consumption of certain medicines or even pregnancy, then it will last as long as the affecting factors persist. In case of deviated septum, swollen nasal cartilages or persistent nasal mucosal inflammation, the mucosal secretion may remain continuously high and result in prolonged post-nasal drip.

What are the Problems Associated with Post-Nasal Drip?

The intensity of symptoms and problems caused by post-nasal drip depends on amount of mucosal secretion, continuous mucosal secretion and thickness of mucosa. The excessive thick mucosa often sticks to the surface of nasal and pharyngeal (throat) wall. The thick sticky excessive mucosa often is difficult to clear by coughing or spitting. In most cases it doesn't get cleared away from the throat. As the thick mucosal layer builds up in the throat, it creates a swallowing problem. Post-Nasal drip is not a disease itself, but a symptom of another underlying condition. It is used to describe a lumpy or thickening sensation at the back of the throat.

Congestion of the throat caused by accumulated thick mucosa is a very irritating problem that is associated with Post-Nasal drip. The presence of thick excessive mucosa at the back of the throat causes continuous feeling of need to swallow. The continuous act of swallowing or attempt to spit thick mucosa causes muscle fatigue of throat and bronchial muscles. The post nasal drip feeling often causes lack of coordination between muscles and nerves impulses. Such lack of coordination causes difficulties in swallowing or coughing and may result in laryngeal spasm. Laryngeal spasm leads to difficulties in breathing. The continuous secretion of thick and dry mucosa which adheres to wall of the throat and nasal cavity gives a feeling of constant mucosal plug almost hangs around the throat. This is sometimes quite painful.

Signs and Symptoms of Post-Nasal Drip

People, who encounter Post-Nasal Drip, often undergo a number of signs and symptoms. These include –

  • A congested throat that needs to be cleared; hence, frequent and voluntary throat clearing is common.
  • Frequent coughing is one of the symptoms of post-nasal drip.
  • Sore throat.
  • A lot of mucus in the throat.
  • A cracked or hoarse voice.
  • A runny or blocked nose is also a symptom of post-nasal drip.
  • Wheezing.

One thing that must be mentioned here is that the Post-Nasal drip can be of two types – the thin secretion of mucus and the thick secretion of mucus. Thin secretion causes symptoms like feeling mucosal dripping at the back of the nose and thick secretion causes symptoms like difficulties in swallowing, breathing and feeling of small soft object stuck at the back of the throat. The increased secretion of the thin mucus is usually caused by the cold, flu, temperature changes and even factors like pregnancy, hormonal changes as well as by eating certain spices. The thick secretion of the mucus, on the other hand, is mostly caused by prolonged allergy or infection. Often the thin mucus is seen to be transformed into thick, yellow or green mucus when persistent allergy is followed and associated with infection. This implies that the cause of this secretion is a bacterial sinus.

Ways to Get Rid of Post-Nasal Drip

If you want to get rid of the Post-Nasal drip, it is a must that you diagnose the cause behind this condition. Different treatment options will follow different causes.

  • Medicines to Get Rid of Post-Nasal Drip: The post-nasal drip is often caused by infection resulting in rhinitis or sinusitis. The viral infection like flu or influenza is treated with antiviral medications. The bacterial infection is treated with antibiotics. Apart from the antiviral or antibiotics, the doctor may also recommend anti-inflammatory medications like motrin or naproxene and in few cases steroid nasal sprays. Cromolyn and antihistaminic sprays helps to reduced nasal and postnasal congestion. However, the medications like antiviral, antibiotics, corticosteroid sprays and anti-histaminic do cause side effects and hence, must be taken as per prescription and under the guidance of a doctor.
  • Surgery for Getting Rid of Post-Nasal Drip: Those, who are suffering from Post-Nasal drip due to a deviated septum or a blocked sinus because of hypertrophied or swollen nasal cartilages may need to surgical treatment. Surgery is recommended to correct the nasal deviation and removal of swollen nasal cartilages. Prior to surgery complete diagnostic test are performed that includes X-Ray, CT scan and examination of nose with fiber-optic tube. The tests help the doctor to identify the exact cause and the extent of surgical intervention needed.
  • Home Remedies for Post-Nasal drip: There are a number of home remedies that are quite helpful in getting rid of this problem of post-nasal drip. What is most important about these home remedies is that these are absolutely safe to use and do not interfere with your regular treatment methods. Hence, if you want to make sure that the irritation lessens and the condition subsides soon, these home remedies must be practiced.
    • Inhale Vapour: The first and the most comfortable home remedy to get rid of the Post-Nasal drip caused by the usual flu, allergens, cold or infection is to inhale steam or vapor. For that you need to add a few drops of essential oils to a bowl of boiling water. By draping your face and head with a towel and completely covering your head over the bowl of water, you need to inhale the steam for as long as you can or at least for 10 minutes. After that you need to blow your nose.
    • Gargling with Salt Water: This is a very comfortable home remedy that will not only help with your Post-Nasal drip, but also reduce the congestion in the back of the throat. For that you need to add ½ teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water and gargle with the water. This should be done for about 2 to 3 days at a stretch, gargling quite a few times in a day.
    • Nasal Irrigation: If you are looking for a faster and more useful home remedy, you need to add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda and a pinch of salt to a cup of warm water. As these dissolve thoroughly, you need to pour the water in one of your nostrils through a neti pot. By tilting and rotating your head from side to back and then the other side and forward, you need to make sure that the water solution reaches the nasal cavities. Now by blowing the nose, the excess mucus can be got rid of.
    • Other Kitchen Remedies: Apart from these, there are other common home remedies that many people follow. Amongst them the use of garlic is worth mentioning. By roasting a few cloves of garlic in clarified butter for 1 minute and eat them with warm milk, you can reduce the over-secretion of mucus. Mixing ½ a teaspoon of cayenne pepper with a little honey and having it for a few times a day can also control the mucus secretion. On the other hand, in treating hoarse voice, chest and throat congestion and in treating a sore throat, ginger can be really helpful. It can be chewed raw or added to tea or one can have it with a little honey.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: September 6, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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