An adult produces as much as 2 quarts of mucus a day. Our bodies need this useful - albeit arguably gross - substance to moisten nasal tissues and ward off infections, among other important benefits. Sometimes, however, the system breaks down. Inflammation of the nose (rhinitis) or sinuses (sinusitis) may then cause post-nasal drip. Coughing, wheezing and constant swallowing are symptoms of this common problem.
On one hand, mucus can thicken, as during cold months when we spend much of our time in dry, heated homes and offices. On the other hand, mucus can run thinner because of a cold or flu. Either way, a sore and irritated throat is the result.
Fight post-nasal drip with kitchen-ready remedies
Home remedies can relieve post-nasal drip in some cases. If you're battling thickened mucus, for instance, drinking water and avoiding diuretics like coffee can thin the substance back to the normal, productive range.
"Some people swear by ginger tea."
Another kitchen-ready remedy is to irrigate the nose with a solution of warm water and baking soda. Salt may also be used, in a ratio of no more than 1 teaspoon per pint. Irrigate by holding your head over the kitchen sink and using a syringe, small bottle or neti pot to put the solution into your upper nostril. Remember to keep your mouth open. If you find this operation cumbersome, consider using an irrigation system. The one we recommend is the HydroPulse Nasal Sinus Irrigator.
If dry indoor air is contributing to the problem, consider using a humidifier or vaporizer. There's even some support for the efficacy of applying cayenne pepper to the nostrils, according to The Mayo Clinic. Some people swear by the effectiveness of making teas from ginger or even chewing raw ginger.
Be ready to visit the drug store
However, there are limits to how much home remedies can help. You may need to make a trip to the pharmacy or your doctor.
If the post-nasal drip is caused by allergies, many people find that antihistamines ease symptoms. But take care - these drugs can be habit-forming.
Also, antihistamines have the side effect of drying out the mouth. And dry mouth is a primary cause of bad breath. That's because dry mouths give the bacteria that cause halitosis a perfect environment in which to create volatile sulfur compounds.
Many people experience bad breath as a result of post-nasal drip. We've developed Nasal Sinus Drops that attack bacteria at the back of the throat, in the sinus cavities and nasal passages.
Be aware when it's time to call the doctor
It's crucial to know when post-nasal drip moves from annoyance to urgent medical condition. If the discharge isn't yellow or white, or if it smells bad, seek a physician's help. Also call a doctor if the nasal discharge comes after a blow to the head or comes out of just one side of the nose. Blockage of a single nostril in children is often the result of them somehow putting something they shouldn't have up their nose - like part of a toy. We have more information in our "Guide to Post-Nasal Drip Causes, Symptoms and Treatments."