Published April 13th, 2020 by USA Rx
On any given day, our bodies contain a ton of mucus without us even realizing it; mucus lines your mouth, nose, throat, sinuses, lungs, and digestive tracts at all times. Mucus gets a bad rap of being gross and bothersome, but that’s because we only think about it when we have too much of it. Mucus is responsible for several important jobs in our bodies, including protecting us from disease and germs by acting as a barrier, defending our bodies with antibodies and enzymes, and lubricating the sensitive hairs and cells that line our respiratory tract. In fact, your nose alone produces about a quart of mucus each day. Mucus is a part of our everyday lives, but if you’ve ever had too much of it running down the back of your throat, you know exactly how problematic it can be. Millions of Americans wake up to feel extra mucus running down the back of their throats each year and find themselves frantically searching for the secrets of how to stop postnasal drip.
If you’ve ever had that familiar, uncomfortable feeling of mucus running down the back of your throat, you’ve experienced the joys of postnasal drip. Postnasal drip occurs when your sinuses make too much mucus and can’t contain it, so the mucus runs along the back of your throat. Over time, postnasal drip can cause a chronic cough called upper airway cough syndrome (UACS). To be clear, mucus is always running down the backs of our throats, even when we’re not sick. Under normal circumstances, mucus mixes with saliva, helping to thin it and allow it to drip down the back of the throat, where it is then swallowed. Postnasal drip becomes a problem when the body produces more mucus than normal or your mucus is thicker than normal.
Because postnasal drip is really just an overproduction of mucus that runs down your throat, it has many causes. Postnasal drip has both acute causes and chronic causes, meaning it can be experienced only rarely or on a regular basis. For people who experience postnasal drip on a regular basis, the most likely causes are allergies or a deviated septum.
Sometimes, what we think is postnasal drip is actually a buildup of liquids in the throat caused by something else entirely. In these cases, the problem is not that our bodies are producing too much mucus; rather, the body is unable to clear the normal amount of mucus away. This issue can occur as a result of age, a blockage, or conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
If you’ve ever experienced postnasal drip before (and who hasn’t?), you’ll remember that all-too-familiar feeling of constantly wanting to clear your throat. Persistent coughs that won’t go away are often caused by postnasal drip. When postnasal drip triggers a cough, it is likely to get worse at night. Postnasal drip may also result in a sore, scratchy throat and a hoarse voice due to the accumulation of mucus. Excess mucus can also cause an ear infection if the mucus backs up into your Eustachian tube; this passageway connects your throat to your middle ear. Clogged sinus passages can result in a sinus infection.
The treatment you’ll need to stop postnasal drip will depend on the condition that is causing it. Common treatments of postnasal drip and the causes relieved by each treatment are listed below.
People have been treating postnasal drip naturally for years, so if you’re trying to avoid taking medication, you have plenty of options. Home remedies for postnasal drip include:
While postnasal drip usually doesn’t require a trip to your doctor’s office, there are some situations where it is important to see your medical professional. If you have tried taking over the counter medications and used home treatments for more than ten days without experiencing a reduction in symptoms, you should see a doctor. Additionally, if you notice that the mucus has a strong odor, this may be a sign of a bacterial infection that requires treatment with antibiotics. Remember, yellow or green mucus does not necessarily indicate a bacterial infection, but strong-smelling mucus does. If you have a fever or begin wheezing, you should also contact your doctor, as these may be other signs of a bacterial infection.
If you believe you may have a deviated septum due to injury or breathing issues since birth, surgery can help. A septoplasty helps align the septum and improves airflow and drainage for people with deviated septums.
If you experience GERD or regular acid reflux or believe you may have a blockage that is causing a feeling similar to postnasal drip, a trip to your primary care physician might be necessary to check for these issues. GERD and acid reflux can often be treated easily by over the counter or prescription medications that alleviate your symptoms entirely.
How Do You Prevent Postnasal Drip?
People who suffer from postnasal drip on a regular basis can help prevent symptoms by incorporating a few small changes into their daily routines. Some tips to prevent postnasal drip include: