Post-nasal drip is a relatively common symptom of colds, respiratory flu, sinusitis, rhinitis, infections, and acid reflux. Birth control pills, allergens, pollen, dust, and smoke can stimulate post-nasal drip. In general, mucus production is a positive and necessary function of the human body, helping to trap foreign invaders and bacteria. Post-nasal drip is commonly caused by thin watery mucus running down the back of the nasal passages and into the throat. It can also be caused by excessive mucus or very thick mucus, which is difficult to clear from the back of the throat.
Under normal circumstances, mucus is cleared easily whenever you swallow and the body’s defense systems eliminates harmful bacteria. Occasionally, something malfunctions, due to a cold, allergies, or a myriad of other issues. When too much mucus builds up and is not cleared away, it can develop into an irritating drip down the back of the throat. In addition to post-nasal drip causing this irritating sensation, it can lead to sore throats, persistent coughs, and ear infections. If not treated properly, these symptoms can get worse and eventually become debilitating.
Post-Nasal Drip Symptoms
- Hoarseness, throat clearing, or coughing
- Constant swallowing
- The sensation of a lump in the back of the throat
- A runny nose and/or congestion (rhinorrhea)
- Sore throat
- Tonsil stone formation (if tonsils are still present)
- Nausea and fatigue
- Severe bad breath
- Dry mouth
Post-Nasal Drip Treatment
Coughing, wheezing, halitosis, snorting, sore throat, and congestion can be obvious and disconcerting. You may notice an increase in coughing or wheezing during allergy season, or these symptoms can affect you year round.
- If post-nasal drip symptoms are related to allergies, antihistamines and in some cases nasal steroids, can help alleviate the problem. A doctor may suggest allergy injections as a long-term solution for allergy-related post-nasal drip.
- For post-nasal drip caused by birth control pills, your doctor may switch you to a different pill or recommend an alternative method of birth control.
- Sinusitis is one of the more serious causes of post-nasal drip and is commonly treated with antibiotics, decongestants, and sometimes nasal irrigation. In more severe and chronic cases, minor surgery may be needed to drain the sinus passages of built-up mucus and bacteria.
- When the mucus from post-nasal drip accumulates and mixes with anaerobic sulfur-producing bacteria in tonsil crevices, small, odorous formations called tonsil stones begin to form.
There are several simple, inexpensive remedies you can try at home to alleviate both post-nasal drip and bad breath. The first is a specialty breath freshening throat spray designed to neutralize odors and cleanse away irritants. To banish drip-related odor quickly, consider gargling with a specialty breath freshening rinse or a mixture of warm water with a little salt. This can cleanse away mucus, soothe your throat and may even potentially dislodge tonsil stones lurking in the back of your mouth.
If symptoms don’t diminish, see a doctor to rule out tonsil stones or other problems, get an accurate diagnosis, and post-nasal drip treatment recommendations.