To fight infections and filter out potential allergens, the glands in your nose and throat secrete mucus. This mucus entraps microorganisms and irritants in a blanket of moisture so that they can be easily flushed away.
Sometimes, as this mucus flows down our throat, we experience postnasal drip. This can feel like:
- constantly needing to cough, clear your throat, or swallow
- sore, scratchy throat
- bad breath
- nausea or upset stomach
Postnasal drip signifies that your nose is trying to remove something, usually an infection or an allergen. It can also be related to a deviated septum, which constricts one nasal passage and prevents mucus drainage.
When and Why Does it Become Noticeable?
Most of the time, your nose and body remove potential dangers without you even noticing. Your mucus captures and expels them or sends them to your immune system to be dealt with.
Postnasal drip can become noticeable when:
- low humidity and inadequate hydration make the mucus more viscous
- irritants like smoke or dust stimulate an increase in mucus secretion
- allergens increase the permeability of blood vessels and tissue cells and decrease moisture
- chronic infection of the sinuses
- increased nasal secretion related to pregnancy, menopause, diabetes, colitis, or other systemic conditions
- the throat is damaged, swollen, or malformed
- hypersensitivity associated with anxiety and stress
Or, in simpler terms, sometimes it’s caused by excessive mucus, and sometimes your throat is unable to clear it.
Postnasal drip can also be confused with the symptoms of acid reflux, which causes a similar feeling of throat irritation but is due to stomach acids splashing up from your stomach rather than flowing down from the inside of your nose.
What Can You Do About It?
Over-the-counter decongestants like pseudoephedrine or antihistamines are often effective at relieving the annoyance of postnasal drip.
Saline nasal sprays can add moisture to your nasal passages, which allows the mucus to flow more easily and less noticeably.
Neti pots and sinus rinses can help flush excess mucus out of your nose.
Drink plenty of water to stay properly hydrated. Drinking hot tea or soup can also help open up your sinuses and keep them moist.
Ultimately, prevention and removing the underlying cause of postnasal drip are the best ways to keep it from happening at all. Identify and avoid any irritants or allergens causing your nose to work extra hard.
Keep your home clean and dust-free as much as possible. Change your air filters regularly.
If you are sick with a bacteria or virus, see a doctor to get antibiotics or medical treatment to clear up the infection.