Glands lining your intestinal tract, stomach, airways, sinuses, throat, and nose produce one to two quarts of mucus every day. Besides moistening those areas, this thick viscous secretion traps and destroys foreign bacterial and viral invaders so they don’t enter your body to trigger infections. But you don’t notice the phlegm and saliva mixture dripping down your throat unless something makes you generate excess amounts or denser consistencies.
Why Mucus Drainage Occurs
Experts report that these conditions can cause mucus overproduction that leads to postnasal drip (PND):
Airborne allergies including pollen, mold, dust, animal dander, and pollution
Sinusitis (inflamed sinuses) or sinus infection
Cold temperatures, weather changes, low-humidity climates, or excessively dry air
Spicy and creamy foods, diuretic beverages including caffeine, and alcohol
Fumes from cleaning products, chemicals, smoke, perfumes, and other irritants
Deviated septum (irregular wall location between your two nostrils) or other anatomical problems affecting your sinuses
Foreign objects stuck in your nose
In some cases, excess mucus doesn’t precipitate PND. Instead, you might not be clearing away normal phlegm amounts well enough. Blockages, acid reflux, and aging can cause swallowing problems that allow liquids to build up in your throat and create sensations resembling postnasal drip.
Chronic throat clearing
Stuffy or runny nose
Mucus buildup in your nasal cavities and throat
Sinus and nasal congestion
Inflamed mucous membranes
Hocking up phlegm frequently
Snorting to clear mucus from your nasal passages because blowing your nose doesn’t help
Tickling feeling in your throat
Due to gravity, trickling drainage creates an aggravating feeling that provokes constant throat clearing. This liquid’s inflammatory and irritating substances can make you cough with your symptoms worsening at night usually. Postnasal drip ranks as the most widespread reason for chronic coughing. Excess mucus dribbling down your throat also might lead to a sore throat and hoarse voice. Phlegm blocking your sinus passages can cause a sinus infection. If drainage plugs up the tube connecting your throat and middle ear, you may develop an agonizing ear infection.
Your postnasal drip cause will determine the appropriate treatment. Allergies respond to steroid nasal sprays and oral medications. Over-the-counter antihistamines like Claritin (Loratidine) and decongestants will reduce postnasal drip that allergies, sinusitis, and viral infections cause. A non-prescription medication that thins out mucus may be helpful. If your phlegm is yellow or green, you could have a bacterial or viral infection. Contact your allergist or physician about bacterial infection symptoms including foul-smelling drainage, a fever, wheezing, or symptoms lingering for 10 or more days. Treatment options include antibiotics like Cefuroxime.
Preventative Lifestyle Measures
Thicker phlegm consistencies are stickier, so they’re more liable to cause discomfort. Keeping your drainage thin will help you avoid blockages in your sinuses and ears that could turn into infections otherwise. To thin your mucus:
Drink more fluids. Choose pure waterover sodas and coffee, which contain chemicals and sugars that can aggravate your mucous membranes or thicken your phlegm. Hot soups and teas add heat to encourage flushing out mucus. Herbal tea with lemon encourages your cilia’s tiny hair-like projections to move your drainage.
Gargle with a salt and warm water mixture.
Use a nasal irrigation system like a neti pot or saline nasal spray to flush surplus phlegm and irritating substances like allergens and bacteria out of your sinuses.
Try a humidifier or vaporizer to raise the indoor air’s moisture level.
Prop up your bed pillows or use a wedge-shaped pillow overnight so drainage won’t pool in your throat. Sprinkle a little apple cider vinegar on your pillowcase to create an alkalizing vapor that will loosen up your mucus (see video below).
These tips can help remove allergy triggers and other irritating substances from your home:
Encase your mattress and pillow in dust mite covers.
Wash your mattress covers, sheets, and pillowcases in hot water often.
Dust and vacuum your home frequently.
Close your bedroom windows during sleep so pollen and other allergens can’t come inside.
Change out your heating and cooling systems’ high-quality standard or HEPA air filters often.
Use an air purification system with a HEPA filter to rid the air of allergens and pollutants.
Consuming these beverages and foods daily could be causing your postnasal drip:
Caffeine and other diuretic drinks
Dairy products including milk, cheese, and yogurt
Corn- and soy-based foods
Gluten and wheat
Some foods aren’t problematic in their natural states, but processing adds chemicals that could be culprits. So switching to a raw or non-processed diet may help. Or a food elimination diet might clear up your symptoms.
When to Consult a Specialist
If standard medications and trigger-reducing measures don’t decrease your drainage, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor can evaluate your condition with various tests including X-rays and CT scans. A structural abnormality like nasal polyps, concha bullosa air pockets, or a deviated septum could require surgery. Tonsillectomies also cure some patients’ PND symptoms.