Many Americans are plagued by the painful and irritating symptoms of post nasal drip. Post nasal drip is caused by your body producing too much mucus or by something inhibiting that mucus from being cleared. It can also be caused by mucus being too thin or too thick. In general, mucus production is a very positive and necessary function of your body, helping to trap foreign invaders and bacteria. Normally this mucus is cleared easily whenever you swallow and the harmful bacteria that it has trapped are dealt with by your body’s defense systems. However, occasionally something malfunctions, sometimes due to a cold or problem with allergies as well as a myriad number of other causes. When too much mucus builds up and is not cleared away it can develop into an irritating drip down the back of your throat. Besides simply being an irritating sensation, post nasal drip can cause a variety of other health problems. Some of these include, but are not limited to: sore throats, persistent coughs and severe ear infections. If not treated properly, all of these conditions can worsen and eventually become debilitating.
The post nasal drip treatment varies. Your doctor will determine which treatment is best for you depending on the cause of your post nasal drip. Sometimes the condition can be caused by a cold, but the cold could be caused by a virus or a harmful bacteria. If the cold is caused by bacteria, then a treatment of antibiotics will be helpful. The antibiotics will kill off the bacteria in your body, including the harmful ones and that should alleviate the cold symptoms, including the post nasal drip. There are many different antibiotics that could be prescribed and your doctor will choose the one that is most effective for you.
In most cases however, a cold is not caused by a bacteria, but by a viral infection and in these cases, an antibiotic will not help. There are many over the counter remedies to help alleviate the symptoms of a cold, and thereby relieve the symptoms of post nasal drip. These could be cough suppressants, or nasal decongestants like Robitussen or Sudafed. There are also many homeopathic remedies that can help. These include zinc lozenges, or vitamin supplements including Vitamin C and Echinacea. USA Today says that there are not many studies which show conclusively that any of these remedies, either pharmaceutical or homeopathic, really shorten the length of the common cold. It seems in many cases, that the best remedy is time and rest and one can hope that this helps. However, even if other symptoms of the cold disappear, such as the cough or fever, you might still be left with post nasal drip. In this case your doctor may recommend decongestants, nasal irrigation systems or antihistamines.
Other than a cold, one of the most common causes of post nasal drip is allergies. Allergies are any sort of hypersensitivity that your body’s immune system produces. The more extreme responses to allergens can be deadly, but the ones typically causing post nasal drip are usually not that serious. These allergens are usually referred to as hay fever and the allergic response is usually characterized by a runny, itchy nose, red eyes and sneezing and coughing. Decongestants, antihistamines and nasal irrigation systems can also be helpful in treating allergy symptoms.
Decongestants help to relieve nasal congestion. They do this by narrowing and constricting blood vessels which reduces blood flow to the nasal passage. When an allergen is introduced into the nasal passages, the allergic response is for the nasal tissues to swell. They will also produce more mucus to try to rid the body of the unwanted allergens. However, if there is too much mucus produced and the body can’t dispose of it, then this will result in the discomfort of post nasal drip. Post nasal drip treatments include using decongestants because by constricting blood vessels and preventing as much blood flow to the nasal area, nasal tissue will not become as swollen or irritated and mucus production will be lessened. By reducing swelling in the nasal passages, decongestants can also improve airflow and breathing which can help to dry out the excess mucus in the nose and throat. Decongestants can sometimes cause sleeplessness and dizziness and are often partnered with antihistamines to lessen these negative side effects.
Antihistamines are another very common treatment for post nasal drip, especially when it is caused by allergies. Another mechanism by which your body tries to fight foreign invaders, especially allergens and viral infections, is by producing and releasing a chemical called histamine. Histamine is produced in your nasal area and interacts with mucus, making it thin and watery. This is an attempt by your body to flush away unwanted particles or allergens but it also leads to watery eyes and a runny nose. Not only is this uncomfortable, but this thin, constant mucus is particularly dangerous for causing post nasal drip. The way an antihistamine works is by blocking the production of histamine which therefore does not allow the chemical reaction to take place which causes the mucus to become thin and watery. This then suppresses the sneezing and itchy, watery eyes as well as the production of the thin mucus which can cause post nasal drip. A main side effect of antihistamines is drowsiness, which can make them unsuitable for some people to take during the day. However, they are often paired with decongestants so the side effects can balance each other out.
While allergies are one of the top causes for post nasal drip, other conditions can also be to blame. One of the lesser known and less common causes is acid reflux. Acid reflux refers to the backwards flow of gastric acid and contents into the upper aero digestive tract. While gastric acids are supposed to flow down, into the stomach and lower digestive tract, sometimes they malfunction and reverse their flow which can cause a variety of problems. Often, acid reflux is associated with heartburn, but not always. It can cause coughing as well as post nasal drip. In the case when acid reflux is to blame for the post nasal drip, treating the acid reflux can almost certainly alleviate the symptoms of post nasal drip. Sometimes, a change in diet is required and switching to a diet with low acid or no acid can be helpful. Taking antacids can also help considerably as antacids help to reduce stomach acid, thereby making it less painful should it retrograde. This can also help to relieve other symptoms, including post nasal drip. Some medications are proton pump inhibitors. These medications keep acids from being manufactured, or manufactured at too high of a rate, thereby lowering the overall amount of acid in the stomach. Other medications, prokinetics, can help your body process gastric acid faster, thereby making it less likely to retrograde. Sometimes a combination of several of these methods is needed to address the problem. By helping to alleviate the acid reflux, these medications also help to relieve post nasal drip.
In some rare cases, surgery may actually be required to relieve the condition. This would most likely be because the cause of the person’s post nasal drip was a deviated septum. A deviated septum is an abnormal condition in which one side of the nasal cartilage is resting unevenly. This causes one of the nasal passages to be obstructed. This problem can cause irregular draining of the sinus cavities which can lead to post nasal drip, snoring, headaches and bloody noses. In most cases, the only way to repair a deviated septum is with surgery, which is almost always successful. This can relieve all the symptoms of the deviated septum, including post nasal drip.
Obviously there is a wide variety of post nasal drip treatments ranging from vapor rubs to oral medications to surgery. Determining which treatment is correct for you means you need to determine which particular cause is to blame for your post nasal drip. The good news is that most often, it is not an isolated problem. A post nasal drip treatment will probably help with another aspect of the condition as well, making you more comfortable and healthy overall. For example, if your post nasal drip is caused by acid reflux, treating the acid reflux will be a treatment for that as well as the post nasal drip that it causes. With a doctor’s help, you can isolate the cause and then determine which treatment or combination of treatments will be best and most effective for you. Many of these causes have treatments which are fairly simple and easy to manage. Even the surgery required for a deviated septum is common and relatively simple for a surgeon to perform. With a little time and effort, and some help from your medical professional, you can address your symptoms and be relieved of post nasal drip.