June 20, 2024

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Post-Nasal Drip: 5 Treatments and Remedies

Nose and throat glands continuously make up to one to two quarts of mucus daily. All this mucus keeps membranes in your body moist and helps to fight infection. When you’re sick, mucus production ramps up and can trickle down the back of your throat—known as post-nasal drip.


There are many ways to treat post-nasal drip, like staying hydrated and avoiding allergen triggers. If your post-nasal drip symptoms don’t go away, you may need to see a healthcare provider. Here’s what you need to know about post-nasal drip and how to treat it.



Post-nasal drip happens when extra mucus from your nose flows down the back of your throat. Though it’s normal to swallow mucus without thinking about it, you can become more aware of this process when you experience post-nasal drip.



You might know you have post-nasal drip based on the actual feeling of mucus drainage. However, other signs indicate you have post-nasal drip. Those additional symptoms include:


  • Feeling a lump in the throat
  • Increased swallowing
  • Irritated sore throat
  • Speech that sounds raspy or like you’re gurgling
  • Throat clearing



Post-nasal drip can have multiple causes. Bacterial infections, gastroesophageal reflux, vasomotor rhinitis (an overly sensitive nose), medications that thicken mucus, and age can all bring on post-nasal drip. Other causes that can give you clear, thin mucus could include:


  • Allergies
  • Bright lights
  • A cold or the flu
  • Changes in hormones
  • Cold temperatures
  • Pregnancy
  • Some foods and spices


Some birth control pills and high blood pressure medications can also increase the mucus your nose makes. Also, thicker secretions usually have a different cause. Mucus can become more viscous from dry air in heated spaces, nose infections, and certain food allergies.



Treatment for post-nasal drip varies depending on what is causing the problem. However, some treatments work for multiple causes.


1. Rinse Your Sinuses

Rinsing your nasal cavity is the simplest and, for many folks, one of the most effective remedies for post-nasal drip. It’s especially effective if you think your symptoms are from allergies or pollution. It can also help if you have a bacterial infection or thickened secretions.


A rinse with a squirt bottle or a Neti pot works by washing irritants or allergens out of your nasal passages, Alice Hoyt, MD, founder of the Hoyt Institute of Food Allergy in Metairie, Louisiana, told Health. “It’s ridding your body of that extra junk that is triggering the process of mucus production,” said Dr. Hoyt.


You can buy prepackaged saline solution or mix it up yourself. If you make your own, use only distilled water, filtered tap water, or boiled water (after it has cooled), Lisa Liberatore, MD, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist at Totem ENT and Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told Health. Otherwise, you risk infection.


2. Try Using Steam

Steam is another simple, effective way to loosen and clear mucus from the back of your throat and ease post-nasal drip. You can use a humidifier for steam, but if you do, make sure you clean it regularly.


Also, while a humidifier will moisten the whole room, a hot shower can make the steam more controlled. “It’s better to do something directly to your nose than to humidify the air in general because it can increase mold issues,” said Dr. Liberatore. “You can also put a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil on the shower floor to help clear nasal passageways.”


You can also inhale steam from a sink or bowl of hot water. Cover the back of your head with a towel, holding your face a few inches over the water’s surface when you breathe in the steam. Make sure the steam is cooled until it’s warm, as you don’t want to inhale hot steam.


3. Know and Avoid Allergens

Allergies commonly cause post-nasal drip. You’ll often be able to tell if it’s allergies if one of your symptoms is itchiness, which happens due to the release of a chemical called histamine.


Once you know your post-nasal drip is allergy-related, find out exactly what your allergy triggers are. Afterward, you can limit or eliminate your exposure to allergens when possible.


4. Use Foods and Drinks to Avoid Thick Mucus

Having enough fluid in your body can help prevent your mucus from having post-nasal drip with thick mucus. To thin thick secretions, you may need to drink more water, cut back on caffeine, and avoid medications and other substances that remove fluid from the body. This especially applies to older people.


Also, many people with post-nasal drip have said that giving up or at least cutting back on dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese reduces mucus production and eases their symptoms. No studies have proven that the strategy is helpful, but personal stories abound.


Research has suggested that dairy may not be associated with increased mucus production, but it can make the saliva thicker and more viscous. Thicker mucus may make people more aware of their secretions, even though they are not making more mucus.


5. Consider Medical or Medicinal Treatments

Different medical and medicinal treatments can be helpful depending on what’s causing the post-nasal drip. For example:


  • Allergies: Allergy shots, antihistamines, decongestants, mucus-thinning products, nasal sprays, or oral steroids
  • Bacterial infections: Antibiotics, decongestants, nasal saline irrigations, or nasal sprays
  • Chronic sinusitis: Surgery
  • Gastroesophageal reflux: Antacids or acid blockers



You should see a healthcare provider if your post-nasal drip lasts three weeks or more or is accompanied by a fever. Green, yellow, or bloody mucus also warrants a trip to a healthcare provider as you could have a bacterial infection, for example.


Other symptoms that may be related to post-nasal drip and need medical attention can include:


  • Coughing that lasts more than 10 days
  • Increased throat pain
  • Productive cough with yellow-green or gray mucus
  • White or yellow spots on the tonsils or the throat



Many things can trigger post-nasal drip, from infections to food allergies, so preventing post-nasal drip will depend on the cause. Here are a few preventative tips to consider:


  • Consult a healthcare provider about potentially changing medications if they cause post-nasal drip.
  • Drink more water to help keep mucus thin.
  • Elevate your head when you lie down if you have acid reflux.
  • Limit or avoid exposure to any allergy triggers when you can.
  • Practice proper handwashing, cleaning, and disinfecting techniques to help reduce the spread of germs.



Home remedies may be worth a try for extra mucus running down the back of your throat. Rinses and steam treatments can provide immediate relief for your symptoms. When caused by allergies, post-nasal drip can be mitigated by avoiding allergy triggers. Eliminating dairy can help thin the thick mucus that’s causing your post-nasal drip.


Over-the-counter medications may also clear it up. See a healthcare provider if you have a post-nasal drip that lasts three weeks or more, a fever as an additional symptom, or mucus that is yellowish, greenish, or bloody.



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