What is Post-nasal drip, why is it bad and how do you treat it
Post-nasal drip, also known as PND, occurs when too much mucus is produced. The mucus builds up in the nasal cavity and in the back of the throat. This excessive mucus causes many complications such as congestion, clearing the throat often, and what BreathMD is most concerned about: bad breath. The excess mucus is usually caused by allergens but other causes such as laryngopharyngeal acid reflux and swallowing disorders have been know to cause post-nasal drip as well. In the treatment of post-nasal drip it is crucial to determine what is causing your body to produce excessive mucus so that you can remove these from your life and environment.
NOTE: In discussing post-nasal drip a lot of people use the word phlegm whereas the definition of phlegm is limited to the mucus produced by the respiratory system and not the mucus produced in the nasal cavities, which causes the nasal dripping to occur.
How do you know if you suffer from post-nasal drip? Below is a list of symptoms of PND. If you suffer from these regularly, then you probably have post-nasal drip.
- Chronic Throat Clearing
- Rhinitis (stuffy nose)
- Rhinorrhea (runny nose)
- Inflammation of the mucous membrane
- "Hocking up loogies" all the time
- Snorting to clear mucus from the nasal passage that cannot otherwise be cleared by blowing one's nose
- Constant clearing of throat
- Congestion in the nasal and sinus passages
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Able to feel mucus build-up in the back of the throat and nasal cavities.
- Tickling in the throat
- Tonsilloliths (Tonsil stones)
- Raspy speech
- Sore Throat
Below is a list of causes of post-nasal drip.
Allergies is probably the number one cause of post-nasal drip. Excess mucus is caused by an increase in histamine, which is most often triggered by airborne allergens such as pollen, mold, animal dander, pollution, dust and other similarly inhaled allergens. Food allergies may also be culprits. Specific types of food such as dairy, wheat, gluten, and even corn have been notorious for giving people PND.
Sinusitis is the inflammation of the paranasal sinuses due to infection, allergy, or structural abnormalities such as a deviated septum, nasal polyps, or concha bullosa. Excess mucus usually comes hand in hand with sinusitis, and this mucus causes the post-nasal drip.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) also known as Acid Reflux Disease is a condition in which the stomach contents (food or liquid) leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach). This action can irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms. The body reacts by trying to protect the esophagus by creating more mucus than normal to provide a barrier against the acid and keep it down.
The side effects of some medications are the creation of excess mucus and also the thickening of mucus, both which may lead to postnasal drip. Birth control pills or pregnancy can also cause post-nasal drip because of the elevated levels of estrogen hormones.
Also long-term usage or abuse of antihistamines and decongestants may cause problems. For example vasomotor rhinitis(stuffy nose) may be a result of nasal spray abuse. In taking medication for allergies and post-nasal drip it is important to take the recommended dosage and follow the instructions, and to get off them as soon as you are able to. If you have serious problems with allergies or PND, it is important to see a specialized ENT(ear, nose, and throat) doctor other than self-medicating.
It is common knowledge now that smoking is unhealthy. The smoke irritates the delicate mucous membrane lining of the nasal passages. This causes it to become inflamed and increases the amount of mucus secreted. It also damages the cilia which are responsible for moving the mucus. Secondhand smoke is also known to aggravate the sinuses.
Remember that prevention is better than cure. It is important to remove what causes you to have post-nasal drip from your life so you don't have to treat the symptoms. For example it would make little sense for you to take decongestants and antihistamines all the time to try and treat the symptoms when what is causing the excess mucus is the instant coffee you have every morning. Think about when, where, and how often you suffer from post-nasal drip. Also think about when it is at its worst. Starting to be aware of these things will help you figure out what is causing you to suffer from post-nasal drip. In this section we will discuss how to find out what is causing your post-nasal drip so you can remove it from your life or at least reduce its symptoms.
Do you have a cold, flu, or sinus infection?
If you do not suffer from post-nasal drip often, then it is probably due to a temporary sickness. Go to the doctor and get treated for your sickness and as you get better your post-nasal drip will clear as well.
Do you have heartburn a lot?
If you do, you may suffer from Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and this may be what is causing the post-nasal drip. Get tested for GERD from a doctor.
What medications are you on that may be causing the excess mucus?
Reading of the side effects of these drugs may show that some of them thicken or increase mucus production. Either stop taking the medication(if it's not important) or request from your doctor to try a different medication. Birth Control pills are known to cause the body to create excess mucus.
Are you currently suffering from seasonal allergies?
If every year at the same time you get hay fever, excess mucus, sinus infections, or a stuffy nose, it may be that you are just suffering from seasonal allergies. Temporary use of antihistamines, decongestants, or mucus thinners may alleviate the symptoms. Sudafed, Mucinex, Zyrtec, and Claritin are some examples of these medications. Beware though of becoming dependent on these medications.
Remove Allergens and Irritants from your environment.
Below is list of things you can do to remove allergens from your home.
- Vacuum and dust regularly.
- Wash and change bedding at least once every 2 weeks.
- Change the filter in your AC or heating system. Don't skimp and buy the cheapest.
- Do not sleep with the bedroom windows open, as pollen and allergens can get in.
- Purchase an air purifier with an HEPA grade filter to remove pollutants and allergens from the air.
Remove Allergens and Irritants from your diet.
What you are consuming on a daily basis may be what is causing the post-nasal drip. Below is a list of products that people find that cause their post-nasal drip. Try a food elimination diet to see if it clears up your PND symptoms. A lot of these foods may not be bad in there natural state but when they are processed, chemicals are added that might be the culprit. Give a raw food or non-processed food diet a go if nothing else works.
- Dairy(milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Caffeine and diuretics
- Wheat and gluten
- Foods made with corn or soy
- Spicy foods
Drink lots of water.
Drinking lots of fluids is important in keeping the mucus moving and thin. Also try just drinking pure water because soda, tea, coffee contain sugars and chemicals that aggravate the mucous membrane or that cause the mucus to thicken. Pure water is that, pure, so you do not have to worry about allergens and chemicals that will increase your symptoms. Also make sure the water you drink is from a good source.
Do you live in the desert or in a cold climate?
If you do the humidity levels are probably pretty low. The low humidity dries out the mucus and makes it thick and difficult for the cilia to move. Invest in a humidifier.
Try Nasal Irrigation.
Try using bulb syringes, pulsatile nasal irrigator, or neti pots to irrigate your nasal cavity. The irrigation process is carried out usually by using a saline solution and this flushes out excess mucus, bacteria, allergens, and other irritating substances out of the sinuses. Check out our article on Nasal Irrigation for more information on how to do this.
See an ENT Doctor.
If you have tried everything, and nothing seems to be working, see an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor. You may have structural abnormalities such as a deviated septum, nasal polyps, or concha bullosa that need to be treated surgically. Also there have been reports that tonsillectomies(removal of tonsils) have cured post-nasal drip.
The reason why this is so low on the list is because usually doctors are just concerned with treating the symptoms, and not with trying to find the cause. Many sufferers of PND have gone to doctors and have been prescribed with medication after medication only to find that when they cut wheat (or whatever was ailing them) out of their diet the post-nasal drip miraculously dried up and went away. Just be wary of the medication you take.
Other methods that have been said to help.
Here is a list of other things people have tried as remedies for post nasal drip. If you have a home remedy or something that has helped you please post below in order to help other people who are suffering.
- Tea with lemon helps to get the cilia moving.
- Oil of oregano(2-3 drops diluted in a bit of juice)
- Gargle with warm saltwater
Hopefully with these tips you have stopped your post-nasal drip or at least reduced its symptoms. Please let us below in the comments about your journey with post-nasal drip and what has or hasn't worked for you. Thank you and good luck!