You’re familiar with the annoying dripping of a leaky faucet. It feels like once you're aware of it, the sound of those water droplets hitting the sink is all you can concentrate on. Drip. Drip. Drip.
It gets on your nerves quickly.
As it turns out, the same happens with your nose. Well, sort of. Postnasal drip is a very common— and very annoying— condition that can make you feel uncomfortable and unwell, even when you're not sick.
But there's more to postnasal drip than just the sniffles and snuffling you’re imagining right now.
Discover the difference between a runny nose and postnasal drip, what causes postnasal drip and how to stop it.
What is Postnasal Drip?
Postnasal drip occurs when excess mucus builds up and runs down your throat from your nose.
Your body produces lots of mucus— by itself, your nose may make about a quart a day! You want your body to produce a lot of mucus. This is because mucus helps keep part of your body nice and moist, and helps protect you against viruses and bacteria that can make you sick.
Normally, excess mucus mixes with your saliva and you swallow the excess. In fact, you probably don't even realize that you're doing it! This becomes a problem if your body produces more mucus than usual, or if it's thicker than normal. When this happens, it can build up in the back of your throat and drip down from your nose. Hence the "drip."
Some symptoms of postnasal drip include:
- Throat clearing
- A chronic cough— particularly one that's worse at night
- Sore throat
- Raspy or hoarse speech
- Ear infections— this happens if mucus plugs the tube that connects your throat to your ears, your eustachian tubes
- Sinus infection
- Frequent swallowing
What's the Difference Between Postnasal Drip and a Runny Nose?
There are a lot of similarities between postnasal drip and a runny or stuffy nose. However, the main difference between the two is where the excess mucus goes as it tries to leave your body.
Remember— postnasal drip occurs when that extra mucus runs down the back of your throat. A runny nose occurs if these secretions come out of your nostrils.
Removing excess mucus with a stuffy nose can be as easy as blowing your nose. However, getting that gunk out of your throat isn't as easy.
What Causes Postnasal Drip?
Postnasal drip can be caused by many different factors. Some of these include:
- The common cold or the flu
- Allergic rhinitis— also known as seasonal allergies
- Spicy foods
- Certain medications— such as some blood pressure or birth control prescriptions
- Cold temperatures
- Vasomotor rhinitis— or allergy symptoms with no specific triggers
- Deviated septum— when the cartilage between your nostrils is uneven, making one nasal passage smaller than the other
- Changes in the weather or cold temperatures
- Sinus infection
- Irritants in the air— like dust, smoke, or chemicals
Because there are so many potential causes of postnasal drip, everyone has experienced it at some point. This is especially true if you suffer from seasonal allergies, or if you enjoy a little— or a lot of— spice in your food.
Since postnasal drip can be caused by the common cold or the flu, you may also be wondering— is there a connection between postnasal drip and COVID-19?
Postnasal Drip and COVID-19
In short— no. There is no connection between postnasal drip and COVID-19. While postnasal drip can happen thanks to the common cold virus, it is not a symptom of the coronavirus.
Remember— some of the most common COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Dry cough— a cough without mucus
- Aches and pains
- Loss of taste or smell
Read more about the difference between a cold and allergies on our blog.
How to Stop Postnasal Drip
Just as there are many potential causes of postnasal drip, there are multiple ways to treat it. What treatment you should use depends on what's causing your postnasal drip.
If your postnasal drip is caused by a viral infection— like the common cold— or by allergies, here are good ways to treat it:
- Prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications like decongestants or antihistamines. However, some antihistamines can actually thicken your mucus.
- Prop yourself up with pillows before you fall asleep. This prevents mucus from accumulating in the back of your throat. This is also helpful if you're sleeping with a stuffy nose, nighttime allergies, or experience symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Here are a few general or all-purpose ways to treat postnasal drip:
- Use SinuSonic— especially if your postnasal drip is accompanied by nasal congestion.
- Drink plenty of water. This helps thin down your mucus and prevent blockages in your ears or sinuses. These blockages can cause sinus or ear infections.
- Use a humidifier to help re-moisturize your nasal passages. A warm, steamy shower can help too.
- Use a saline solution, nasal spray, or a neti pot to moisturize your sinuses and help flush out any mucus, debris, or other irritants.
- "Allergy-proof" your home. By reducing the number of allergens in your home, you have fewer potential triggers for postnasal drip.
Chicken Soup for the...?
You’ve heard of the healing power of a piping hot bowl of chicken soup. But is this just an old wives' tale, or is there actually some truth to it?
Thankfully, there is! Chicken soup won't actually "cure" any diseases— only time and rest can do that. However, warm or hot liquids can provide welcome relief to your symptoms.
This is because the steam opens up your sinuses and your throat, and thins out mucus. Thinned mucus is much easier to pass through your nasal cavities. The hot liquid can also help prevent dehydration. Dehydration can make your postnasal drip symptoms worse. Plus the warm liquid helps soothe a sore or irritated throat.
These benefits aren't exclusive to just chicken soup. You get the same postnasal drip benefits from any hot liquid. Broth and tea are both great options, but avoid caffeinated drinks. Caffeine has a diuretic effect on your body, which can increase your risk of dehydration.
When To Call Your Doctor
Postnasal drip is a common side effect of many conditions. It can also be your body's way of responding to environmental changes. Postnasal drip may be annoying, but it's thankfully temporary— and often very brief.
However, be aware of abnormal symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or an ear, nose, and throat specialist as soon as possible.
- Your symptoms are severe or last for 10 days or more. This shows that you may have a bacterial infection.
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- You have a fever
- Your postnasal drip smells bad or has blood in it
- Your symptoms persist, even after treatment
Everyone deals with postnasal drip at some point, but you don't have to let it be a drain on your everyday life. Follow these tips, and create a healthy breathing routine with SinuSonic. Your SinuSonic device is clinically proven to support your body’s own natural mucus and congestion clearing abilities.
Want to learn more about SinuSonic? Have some questions for the team? Let us know! We'd love to hear from you.
Leader, Preston, and Zachary Geiger. “Vasomotor Rhinitis.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, 15 July 2021, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547704/.“Gerd | Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/gerd.html.