When excess mucus builds up and drips down the back of your throat, it’s called postnasal drip. In addition to feeling like mucus is draining down your throat, symptoms of postnasal drip include cough, the urge to clear your throat and hoarseness. Postnasal drip has many causes, including allergies, infections, pregnancy, medications and GERD.
Postnasal drip is when more mucus than normal gathers and drips down the back of your throat. You may feel like you have a tickle in the back of your throat. Postnasal drip can be a bothersome condition that can lead to a chronic cough.
You normally swallow mucus unconsciously. You don't notice it because it mixes with your saliva and drips harmlessly down the back of your throat. But when you feel like mucus is gathering in your throat or dripping from the back of your nose, it becomes more obvious.
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Postnasal drip can cause an irritated sore throat. Your tonsils and other tissues in your throat may swell up, leading to discomfort. You may feel like there’s a lump in the back of your throat. Other symptoms of postnasal drip may include:
You can get postnasal drip for many different reasons. One of the most frequent causes of postnasal drip is allergies, which is often called allergic postnasal drip.
Another cause is a deviated septum. If you have a deviated septum, it means the wall of cartilage between your nostrils (septum) is crooked. The misplaced structure of your nose makes one of your nasal passages smaller than the other. This can prevent mucus from draining properly and can lead to postnasal drip. Other postnasal drip causes may include:
Postnasal drip itself isn’t contagious. But the cause of it may be contagious. For example, if you develop postnasal drip because of a viral infection such as a cold, you could pass the virus on to someone else.
Your healthcare provider may diagnose postnasal drip by performing a physical exam of your ears, nose and throat. They may use a special camera called an endoscope to look inside of your nose and throat. This procedure is called a nasal endoscopy. They may also order X-rays.
Postnasal drip can be hard to cure. Treatment depends on the cause of the condition. For common colds and flu, you can try drinking warm liquids like soup or tea to help thin out the excess mucus. Along with drinking plenty of water, these home remedies will also keep you hydrated. Other treatment options may include:
To fix postnasal drip due to allergies, you should avoid things you’re allergic to. Symptom relief may include medicines like:
In addition, immunotherapy with allergy shots or drops under your tongue may be a good remedy for the condition.
If you have a deviated septum, you may need a surgery called a septoplasty to permanently treat postnasal drip. Septoplasty straightens your septum and provides better airflow.
To get rid of postnasal drip due to a bacterial infection, your healthcare provider may recommend certain medications, including:
If postnasal drip is due to chronic sinusitis, your healthcare provider may recommend sinus surgery. Sinus surgery can open your blocked sinuses.
Treatment for postnasal drip caused by GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) may include:
One way to prevent postnasal drip is by reducing your exposure to things you’re allergic to as much as possible. Ways to prevent the condition may include:
Postnasal drip is very common and has many different causes. While the condition isn’t usually serious, it can be annoying. With some over-the-counter medications and other home remedies, it should clear up on its own.
If you have repeated cases of postnasal drip or other symptoms along with it, reach out to your healthcare provider. You may have a bacterial infection or other condition that requires medical care.
There are many things you can do at home to help clear up your postnasal drip. You may need more fluids to thin out your secretions. Home remedies may include:
You can also try a mucus-thinning medication (expectorant) such as guaifenesin (Mucinex®). These may make your secretions thinner. Saline nasal irrigations lessen thickened secretions. Saline nasal sprays can help moisten your nose.
If you’ve taken steps to clear up your postnasal drip and they’re not working, call your healthcare provider. You may have a bacterial infection that needs an antibiotic. Symptoms of a bacterial infection may include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Postnasal drip can be annoying, but it’s typically harmless. Most of the time, you can treat the condition with simple home remedies and over-the-counter medications. If you develop additional symptoms or your postnasal drip doesn’t clear up within a couple of weeks, call your healthcare provider. They can help determine if you have something that requires additional medication or other treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/19/2022.
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