Postnasal Drip- Allergy/Immunology
Doctors: ENT Specialist, Allergist
What is postnasal drip?
The nose, throat, and sinuses are all continuously generating mucus. Mucus is thick and slippery and helps to keep the airways from drying out throughout the day. Postnasal drip can be defined as extra mucus production in the back of the nose and throat.
Allergy is one of the most common causes of postnasal drip. Other causes of postnasal drip include:
- Bacterial infections
- Medicines that thicken mucus (e.g. birth control pills, blood pressure medications etc.)
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Spicy food
- Perfumes, cleaning products
- Objects stuck in the nose
- Chronic respiratory conditions, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Hormonal changes
- Irregular nose cartilage
- Acid reflux (or gastroesophageal reflux)
Allergies, cold temperature, spicy food, bright light, hormonal changes, colds and flu can lead to thin clear mucus secretions. Dryness during winter due to heaters can lead to thick mucus secretions. Nose infections, allergies and dairy products can also lead to thick mucus secretions.
- Breath with foul smell
- Sore or irritated or scratchy throat
- Frequent swallowing of mucus
- Frequent throat clearing
- Raspy or gurgling speech
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
- A cough that gets worse during night-time
Post-nasal drip may be diagnosed by performing a detailed ear, nose, and throat exam, endoscopy or X-rays.
Allergies can be managed by using antihistamines, decongestants, steroid nasal sprays, or oral steroids. Mucous-thinning agents help to make secretions thinner. Saline nasal irrigations lessen thickened secretions. Non-prescription saline nasal sprays are recommended to moisten the nose.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. A surgery may be recommended in the cases of chronic sinusitis to open the blocked sinuses. If postnasal drip is due to Gastroesophageal reflux, along with antacids, other recommendations include weight loss, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, elevating the head of the bed six to eight inches, avoiding food and beverages for at least three hours before bedtime. Increased water consumption is also beneficial.
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