January 19, 2023

What Is Postnasal Drip?

sore throat from postnasal drip

The body produces mucus for many reasons, including that it helps moisten inhaled air and the surface of airways, traps and helps expel particles, and fights infection. 

Postnasal drip is a condition where glands in the lining of your nose make excess mucus and drips down the back of your throat. Most people find postnasal drip to be an unpleasant sensation that causes other bothersome symptoms. 

Postnasal Drip Symptoms

The draining of excess mucus into the throat can produce several symptoms, including: 

  • Persistent urge to clear your throat or swallow
  • Hoarseness or gurgling sound when you speak
  • Cough that worsens at night
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Nausea and vomiting

In addition, if mucus plugs the Eustachian tubes that connect your middle ear to your nose and throat, the blockage increases your risk of developing an ear infection

What Causes Postnasal Drip?

Several issues and conditions can cause you to develop postnasal drip. One of the most common is allergies. Others include: 

  • Cold temperatures
  • Dry air
  • Bacterial infections
  • Specific prescription medications, including blood pressure drugs and birth control pills
  • Sinusitis (sinus infections)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Deviated septum (misalignment of the cartilage divider between the nostrils) 
  • Pregnancy
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Getting older

Postnasal drip can even be caused by exposure to bright lights. 

How Is Postnasal Drip Diagnosed?

If you experience frequent or bothersome postnasal drip, you should talk with your doctor. They can do a general examination of your nose, throat, and ears to determine if that’s what’s causing your symptoms. 

Your doctor can also do a more detailed assessment of your nose and throat using an endoscope. If appropriate, they may order X-rays to help diagnose your condition. 

How Is Postnasal Drip Treated?

Doctors reduce or eliminate postnasal drip by addressing the root cause. For example, if allergies are causing your condition, your doctor can prescribe medications like antihistamines and decongestants to manage them. Similarly, they can prescribe antibiotics if a bacterial infection is causing your condition.

Reducing postnasal drip from GERD may require changing your diet, losing weight, and reducing your consumption of caffeine and alcohol. For a deviated septum, surgery to reposition the cartilage can be effective.

In addition to those treatments, you can reduce your postnasal drip by drinking warm fluids like tea or soup. This helps thin your mucus and minimize its negative impact on your comfort. It’s also helpful to keep your home and work environment clean and dust-free and to shower before going to bed to remove allergens and other irritants from your skin and hair that you may have picked up if you’ve spent time outdoors. 

And for occasional temporary postnasal drip, you can use over-the-counter decongestants and other medications as directed to reduce your symptoms. 

Talk with Your Baptist Health Physician About Postnasal Drip

If you experience postnasal drip frequently or continually, your Baptist Health physician can determine what’s causing it and prescribe treatment. If you don’t have a doctor, you can find one near you using our online provider directory.

Learn More.