At this time of year when temperatures are getting much cooler and it’s raining more often, I get a lot of patients coming in complaining of a chronic cough and feeling like there’s a faucet slow drip, drip, dripping in the back of their throat.
These are common symptoms of a condition usually associated with seasonal, or year-round, allergies to mold, pollen, dust, but can also occur without allergies. Even acid reflux, eating spicy food, or taking birth control pills can cause it! It’s called post nasal drip, or PND, for short and can cause some uncomfortable upper respiratory symptoms as well as be the source of halitosis (bad breath). Today, I’d like to talk to you about this condition and what you can do about it.
Symptoms of Post Nasal Drip
For people who are bothered with post nasal drip, the symptoms can be many and varied, depending on what is the cause of their specific case of PND. In general, though, here are the most frequently experienced symptoms of post nasal drip:
➢ A feeling of mucus running down your throat constantly
➢ Constant swallowing and clearing of the throat
➢ Tickling in the back of the throat
➢ Broken or cracking voice, even a hoarse , “hot potato” voice
➢ Nasal and sinus congestion
➢ Difficulty breathing from nose, frequent mouth breathing
➢ Chronic sore throat, coughing
➢ Snorting to clear mucus that doesn’t clear with normal nose blowing
What Causes Post Nasal Drip?
As noted above, PND can be caused by several things, the most common being allergic, or nonallergic, rhinitis, i.e., an inflammation of the interior of the nose. Constant breathing in of environmental allergens will cause the lining of the nasal passages to become inflamed. In response to that inflammation, the body develops thicker mucus deposits. This thicker mucus then starts to drip down the back of the throat and cause you to develop a cough or sore throat.
Taking birth control or high blood pressure pills can also cause PND. Birth control pills can cause fluctuations in hormones, which can affect body fluids. High blood pressure pills sometimes cause frequent urination causing dryness. In response, the body produces more mucus to line passages and keep them from drying out.
Here are a few other causes of PND:
➢ Inhaling environmental pollutants: Airborne particles can get stuck in the respiratory tract and cause mucus to surround it and start dripping down your throat.
➢ Dairy products: Cause irritation of the nasal passageways.
➢ Dry environment: Causes the nasal passages to dry out and form more mucus.
➢ Smoking: Causes irritation and inflammation which causes more mucus to form.
➢ Caffeine and alcohol: Can cause general dehydration which dries out nasal passages. Body creates more mucus to keep passages moist.
➢ Throat/Swallowing disorders: Structural problems of the throat, swollen tissues, can result in mucus pooling in the back of the throat. A visit to an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor can determine this.
➢ Acid reflux: Acid can reflux up from the stomach as far up as the back of the throat. This can irritate tissues. The body produces more mucus in an attempt to coat these irritated tissues.
What Can I Do For My Post Nasal Drip?
There are some simple, “home remedy” type treatments for PND that I recommend to my patients before considering the big guns of antibiotics. Here are a few of them:
➢ Drink Water: Adequate water intake can remedy a lot of dysfunctional conditions and help the body right itself. This is also true of PND. Be sure you are drinking enough water. Some experts say 90 ounces for a female, and 105 for a male.
➢ Nasal irrigation: A good one is an aloe/saline fluid mix in a squeeze bottle available at health food stores or pharmacies. Squirt some fluid into the nasal passages and hold for a few moments, then gently blow out the residue. Rinses away viruses, bacteria, and dirt.
➢ Decongestants: OTC products can help reduce post nasal drip. Herbal decongestants such as oregano, ginger, and cayenne can be helpful in clearing excess mucus.
➢ Gargle salt water: Put 1 tsp of salt in a half glass of warm water and gargle for 30 seconds before spitting. Repeat. The salt water breaks up the mucus as well as soothes irritated throat tissues and kills bacteria.
➢ Humidify your living/working space: Too-dry environments can cause nasal passages to dry out and prompt the body to create more mucus to line airways. Get a good humidifier to use when furnaces come on for the fall/winter season.
➢ Treat acid reflux: Treating acid reflux can help also get rid of your PND problem. See our past newsletter on how to treat acid reflux.
Post nasal drip can be an uncomfortable nuisance but you don’t have to live with it. Try some of the simple recommendations here and see if you’re not breathing easier very quickly!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.