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Postnasal Drip: Sore Throat, Sinuses Symptoms Causes Treatment Preventions & More All you need to know

December 30, 2021

Postnasal drip is the drainage of secretions from the nose and sinuses into the pharynx (Throat).

There are many glands present in our mouth, nose, throat, stomach, and intestinal tract that produces mucus. Mucus is the thick whitish liquid that moistens the area and has anti-bacterial effects.

When these glands produce too much mucus, it will start collecting at the back of the nose or throat. It causes an itching sensation at the back of the mouth or in the nose that would not go away easily.

The mucus that collects in the nose or throat can be clear watery or thick with green, yellow, or white colors.

Postnatal drip usually leads to coughing, throat clearing, and watery eyes. People with asthma will face difficulty in breathing due to postnatal drip.

Postnasal Drip Sore Throat, Sinuses Symptoms Causes Treatment Preventions

What Are The Symptoms of Postnasal Drip?

Postnatal drip is itself, a symptom. If you notice any other symptoms along with the postnasal drip it may be because of the underlying condition that is causing mucus drainage from the nose.

There are some respiratory system-related symptoms and other symptoms that can be noticed along with the postnasal drip.

Respiratory system-related Symptoms:

it may affect the respiratory system and cause the following complications.

  • Persistent cough
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Pus or white mucus is present in the throat or white patches covering the tonsils.
  • Runny nose
  • Allergy may cause sneezing
  • Coughing up yellow, brown, or green mucus from the throat
  • Itchy eyes due to allergy
  • Foul breath

Other Symptoms:

Other symptoms that occur along with the postnatal drop are:

  • Body aches
  • Enlargement of lymph nodes in the throat region
  • Pain in facial sinuses
  • Fatigue
  • Fever with chills
  • Heartburn
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease

Symptoms that Indicates the Serious Condition:

In some cases, some serious symptoms can be noticed along with the postnasal drip, which might indicate some serious underlying condition.

  • Patients find difficulty in breathing
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Fever
  • Lump in the throat that doesn’t heal
  • Lump in the nose
  • Pain in upper teeth
  • Sinusitis and headache
  • Swelling of the tongue and the throat occur.

Causes of Postnasal Drip?

Postnasal drip is caused by certain environmental and changes that take place in the body. Allergy is considered one of the most common causes of postnatal drip.

Seasonal allergies due to pollen. The body will try to eliminate the allergen and starts excessive mucus production that would lead to postnasal drip.

Cold od dry weather can also be one of the leading causes for developing this condition. Breathing in the cold or dry weather may irritate your nose or throat and the body will start producing mucus to keep the area moist.

Other respiratory system-related causes of a postnasal drip are given below.

Respiratory System Related Causes:

Specific respiratory conditions that may cause the postnasal drip are:

  • Abnormal growth in the throat
  • Asthma and vasomotor rhinitis
  • Common cold
  • Structural abnormalities of the nose like a deviated septum
  • Flu
  • Nasal fungal infection
  • Nasal polyps that obstruct the nasal passage
  • Inflammation of nasal or paranasal sinuses
  • Viral infection of the upper respiratory tract.

Other Causes

There are other causing factors other than the respiratory system factors that cause the postnasal drip

  • Medications used to lower the blood pressure
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Cold temperature
  • Birth control pills
  • Irritating objects stuck in the nose
  • Chemical fumes and other environmental fumes
  • Hormonal changes
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Serious Life-Threatening Causes of Postnasal Drip:

Postnasal drip can be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be treated immediately by the health care professional. These conditions are very rare.

There are some life-threatening causes, like:

  • Cancer of the nose
  • Cancer of the pharynx
  • Cancer of the paranasal sinuses

In most cases, the postnasal drip is clear on its own but if the postnasal drip is left untreated there is the chance of having an infection. That can cause the mucus to clog up in the paranasal sinuses or Eustachian tube.

When To See a Doctor?

You have to concern with your medical professional so that a proper diagnosis can be made. Postnasal drip is not a life-threatening condition but it is very annoying.

So you must see your doctor if you have:

  • Fever (persistent fever)
  • Runny nose
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Wheezing sound during breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood tinged mucus from mouth and nose
  • Foul-smelling drainage from the nose
  • Lasting symptoms despite treatment

What Are The Risk Factors of Postnasal Drip?

Allergy is considered one of the main risk factors of postnatal drip. Certain environmental changes are also be considered as the risk factors of postnasal drip

Seasonal allergies due to pollen from plants are considered to be the main risk factors because this pollen increases mucus production.

Cold od dry weather can also be one of the leading risk factors of postnasal drip because breathing in this weather may irritate your nose or throat and cause postnasal drip.

Other risk factors of a postnasal drip are given below.

  • Abnormal growth in the throat
  • Asthma and vasomotor rhinitis
  • Common cold
  • Structural abnormalities of the nose like a deviated septum
  • Flu
  • Nasal fungal infection
  • Nasal polyps that obstruct the nasal passage
  • Inflammation of nasal or paranasal sinuses
  • Viral infection of the upper respiratory tract.
  • A person having medication for hypertension is at great risk of having a postnasal drip.  
  • Cold temperature
  • Women using birth control pills are at great risk
  • Chemical fumes and other environmental fumes can also be considered as the risk factor of postnasal drip
  • Hormonal changes in the body
  • Pregnant Lady has the great chances of having postnasal drip due to hormonal changes
  •  Underlying Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Cancer of the nose
  • Cancer of the pharynx
  • Cancer of the paranasal sinuses

Complications

If the postnasal drip is left untreated it can cause many complications. As we know postnasal drip is not a life-threatening condition but still, it can lead to many complications.

These four are more common:

  1. Sore Throat and Cough:

Postnasal drip can lead to sore throat and cough due to persistent mucus drainage that causes the irritation. Your voice can be raspy and sore that is different from the regular sore throat.

Coughing can also be one of the most common complications that occur due to the postnasal drip. It happened because the mucus in the throat causes irritation, due to which cough develops to get rid of irritants.

  • Difficulty Breathing and Swallowing:

Continuous nasal drainage in the pharynx can cause difficulty in breathing due to the swelling of the pharynx, which occurs due to irritation because of nasal drainage.

Moreover, you can also face difficulty in swallowing because the nasal drainage not only causes irritation but also cause local swelling due to which you may face swallowing difficulty.

  • Sleep Disruptions:

Postnasal drip and its accompanying conditions can cause sleep disturbance in a normal sleeping position due to nasal congestion or other reasons. 

So, you have to sleep in a semi-seated position so that gravity can helps with drainage.

  • Development of Chronic Condition:

Mucus overproduction and its poor drainage can lead to chronic conditions like sinusitis. Postnasal drip is not the direct cause of sinusitis but it can be one of the reasons because of poor drainage of mucus.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of any disease is important because, on the basis of diagnosis, the treatment plan is formulated. Moreover, it also helps to identify the cause of the disease.

The first step in diagnosis is to figure out the causes of postnasal drip. Your doctor will figure out the cause by simply asking some questions about your symptoms like:

  • How long do you have a cough?
  • What is the color of mucus and consistency when coughed up
  • Have you ever face difficulty in breathing and swallowing?
  • Have you ever felt any lump or swollen glands in your neck or face region?
  • Have you experienced fever with chills?

By asking these simple questions a health care professional can identify the underlying cause that is related to the symptoms.

Moreover, the doctor will also examine your ears, nose, and throat. Sometimes, other tests like X-rays can also be needed to identify the cause.

Laboratory tests of mucus that is present in the nose or throat can reveal a lot about the causes of postnasal drip. If the mucus is clear most likely common cold is the main causing factor but if the color of the mucus is greenish or yellow, bacterial may have developed.

What Are The Treatments of Postnasal Drip?

Treatment of postnasal drip depends on its causes. If the infection is the main causing factor of the postnasal drip then the doctor treats it according to the cause.

If the infection is the cause

In most cases, viral infection is the main reason for postnasal drip, and antibiotics are not required for treatment in that case.

To decongest the clogged nose, decongestants can be used.  If bacterial infection occurs along with the viral infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.

The most common nasal decongestants used for the postnasal drip are

  • Pseudoephedrine

Phenylephrine

Use nasal decongestants only after concerning with your doctor because it can exacerbate underlying conditions like high blood pressure, thyroid disease, glaucoma, or prostate enlargement. Nasal decongestants can not be used for more than 3 to 4 days because they cause congestion to worsen levels.

Regardless of the cause of the postnasal drip, antihistamines can be used for the treatment. The most commonly used antihistamines for the postnasal drip are

  • Cetirizine
  • Levocetirizine
  • Desloratadine
  • Loratadine
  • Fexofenadine
  • Chlorpheniramine

A humidifier can also be used to relieve the symptoms of postnasal drip due to the dry weather.

If Allergies are the cause

If allergies are the main causing factors of postnasal drip then your doctor will prescribe you antihistamines. Some important histamines that can be prescribed are:

  • Loratadine
  • Desloratadine
  • Cetirizine

Along with antihistamines corticosteroids are also used for the treatment of postnasal drip due to allergy. Some important corticosteroids are:

  • Budesonide
  • Fluticasone
  • Mometasone

Avoiding the allergens that cause the runny nose can also prevent postnasal drip.

Home Remedies

Postnasal drip can be cured at home. If the postnasal drip is getting worse there are certain home remedies that can relieve the discomfort this can be done by eliminating the allergens.

Essential Oils:

If postnasal drip causes nasal congestion and pressures the aromatherapy can help to give some relief.

Some oils like peppermint and eucalyptus can also give temporary relief from discomfort due to the postnasal drip and will also help to suppress the cough.

Steam Therapy:

Thick mucus can cause irritation. Steam therapy is used to thin the mucus and allow it to flow more easily and also help to suppress the cough and also reduce the difficulty in breathing.

Preventing Dehydration:

Dehydration worsens the postnasal drip. Drinking fluids to keep the body hydrated and avoiding caffeine can help to

  • Replace fluids
  • Prevent dehydration
  • And thinning of mucus so that it can drain easily

Nasal Irrigation:

In nasal irrigation nose and sinuses are cleared out of mucus by using a special device called nasal irrigators. Neti pots are the most popular type of nasal irrigator.

In nasal irrigation not only nose and sinuses are cleared out of mucus but it also helps to keep the sinuses moist and counteract the effects of dry weather.

Humidifier:

Paranasal sinuses can easily be dried up in cold or dry weather and cause nasal congestion and pain. A humidifier keeps the air moist and reduces the chances of nasal congestion.

Elevated Head:

Elevated head during sleeping can help to drain the mucus easily. It also reduces the chances of having hr postnasal drip due to acid reflux.

Herbal Remedy:

Some herbs that are used to cure a common cold can also reduce the complications due to postnasal drip.

Prevention

It can be prevented by following the precautionary measures and avoiding direct contact with the allergens like dust and pollen grains. This can possible after you cover your face with a face mask.

There are some other ways to reduce the chances of having postnasal drip:

  • Cover your mattress and pillow with dustproof covers
  • Wash sheets and pillow covers with warm water
  • Use special HEPA air filters in your home to remove the fine dust particles from the air.
  • Dust and vacuum daily. 

When you have any symptoms related to postnasal you must call your doctor for the diagnosis and the treatment.

Abdur Rashid
Medically Reviewed By Abdur Rashid
MSC Public Health, MCSP, MHCPC
BSC (Hon) Physiotherapy
Consultant Neuro-spinal & Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

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