If you thought bad breath was tough to get rid of in the summer months, just wait until you have a raging case of it this winter. Due to colds, flus and post-nasal drip, halitosis can turn your winter into a seemingly endless bummer. That latter condition is particularly problematic, since many people don't realize they have it, or that it is giving them oral odor.
What is post-nasal drip?
Though it may sound synonymous with a cold, post-nasal drip is its own distinct health problem. The American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (AAOHNS) states that plenty of things can cause nasal discharge, from air allergies, hay fever, colds, spicy foods or even bright lights.
However, when this discharge only lasts a few minutes or hours, it isn't a health condition. It's only when your nose continually runs down the back of your throat that you may be said to have post-nasal drip.
The direction of the discharge - that is, down the throat - is important. If you are blowing most of your nose's moisture into a hankie or tissue, it is unlikely to affect your breath odor. However, if you are constantly coughing and swallowing, or you can feel a trickle running down your throat, you may have post-nasal drip.
The AAOHNS estimates that, in a day, this common condition can cause you to swallow up to two quarts of your own mucus. Gross!
...And it can cause halitosis, at that.
Whether your post-nasal drip comes from an infected sinus, air allergy or ear infection, it's important to realize that it can make your breath smell absolutely terrible.
When you repeatedly swallow this trickle of moisture, your tongue deposits it on your tonsils, adenoids and the walls of your throat, coating your airways with layer after layer of mucus. In this slick mess, bacteria can spread like wildfire. If your immune system is compromised, they can grow even faster, giving off smelly molecules in the process.
According to the National Institutes of Health, you may want to contact a physician if your post-nasal drip lasts more than ten days in a row, or if it smells exceptionally rotten.
Before then, consider keeping your tongue and throat and clean as possible by gargling often with a specialty breath freshening mouthwash. To avoid irritating delicate oral tissues, stick to rinses that do not contain alcohol or harsh chemicals.