Our nose, throat, airways, stomach and the intestinal tract serve as a border patrol police for our body. Any foreign particle, bacteria or viruses and even fungi that enters the body is trapped and destroyed by a thick, wet matter called as mucus. The mucus is produced by the glands lining these organs and also helps keep these organs moist. Normally, the glands release mucus continuously throughout the day.
The mucus helps keep our nasal membranes clean, humidifies air, traps microorganisms and keeps our body free of infection. We swallow our mucus continuously with the saliva. However, the normal amount released is so minor that we never realize the presence of mucus at the back of our throat. Only when we develop an infection and suffer from congested nose, do we realize the feeling of mucus accumulation. This feeling or dripping of mucus at the back of our throat is called as postnasal drip.
What Causes Postnasal Drip?
Postnasal drip is caused by a number of factors. Let us discuss these factors, according to the type of mucus secreted.
Thick mucus secretions
One often suffers from thick mucus secretions in the winter. This is because the air becomes drier during winter. Also, it is the season when the nose or sinus infections as well as allergies is at peak. One often develops bacterial infections that cause yellow or green thick mucus secretions.
In case of children, when thick, smelly mucus is secreted from just one side of the nose, it indicates a foreign object is stuck in one of the nasal passages. This could include a piece toy, bean, paper or anything the child manages to stick up his/her nose. Visit the doctor immediately and seek a doctor’s advice for the symptoms.
Thin mucus secretions
Thin mucus secretions that are at times similar to a clear, watery discharge is caused by a viral infection. Cold and flu as well as allergies can result in thin mucus secretions. Other causes include:
- Cold temperatures
- Eating spicy foods or certain types of food
- Use of certain drugs such as birth control pills/ high blood pressure pills
- Nasal wall deviation or irregular nasal septum
- Reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Symptoms of Postnasal Drips
Postnasal drip causes the following symptoms:
- Cough due to inflammatory effect of the mucus
- Worsening of cough at night due to sleeping position
- A frequent need to clear the throat
- Blockage of Eustachian tube that causes difficulty in hearing
- Sinus infection that causes blockage of the sinus passages leading to the facial pain
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing due to nasal congestion
Diagnosis of Postnasal Drip
The doctor may conduct a physical examination to check for signs of fever, infection, etc. He/she will note down the symptoms and may suggest fiber optic examination. This will help in the diagnosis of gastric reflux that causes chronic cough. The sputum may be sent for culturing to check for any infection bacterial or viral.
Management of Postnasal Drip
Management or treatment of postnasal drip depends on the cause. Mostly, it clears up on its own without any medical treatment. Simple homecare tips such as gargling with salt water, drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, using nasal sprays or applying Vicks helps.
In case of allergies, antihistamines, decongestants, steroids and Cromolyn may be given for relief. Postnasal drips due to GERD can be treated by elevating the head 6 to 8 inches. Avoid foods and beverages that are spicy and acidic. Reduce the intake of caffeine and alcohol from the diet. Use antacids prescribed by the doctor to reduce acid reflux.
Antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial infection. Reduce triggers from your environment by using dust proof pillows and mattresses, wash your furnishing as frequently as possible and dust and vacuum your home regularly.
You can even try steaming bath to clear the nasal passages and thin out the mucus facilitating drainage. You can even mix a pinch of baking soda in one cup of water. Fill up the syringe and squirt it into the nostrils. Hold your head back for some time and allow the solution to reach the sinus cavities. Then blow your nose to clear the passages of mucus.
Prevention of postnasal drips is very difficult as one cannot tell when or what triggers excessive mucus production. Speak to your doctor if the condition does not improve in 15 days or the mucus has a foul smell and the home remedies are not helping in clearing the mucus.
Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: June 08, 2015