Post-nasal drip develops when the cells that line the nose produce excess mucus, or when the mucus is thicker than normal. These secretions build up in the nose or throat, leading to symptoms such as itchiness, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, bad breath, and wheezing. Nausea, vomiting, and fatigue can develop in chronic cases.
Quite often, post-nasal drip is associated with upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold. Other causes include seasonal allergies, sinus infections, and structural abnormalities of the nose or sinuses. Depending on the cause of the drip, treatment might include antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants, or steroid medications. Keeping the body well hydrated can help thin out the secretions and relieve some of the discomfort, and many people drink hot tea with honey to soothe the symptoms. In very rare cases, the cause might be a benign or malignant tumor, which could require surgery to remove.
The most common symptoms of post-nasal drip are swelling and congestion of the nose and sinuses. These are almost always present in some form, because the drip is caused by abnormal mucus secretions. As a result, the nose and sinuses don’t drain properly, which can lead to runny nose, frequent sniffing, a tickle in the nose, or sneezing.
Mouth and Throat
Throat-related symptoms often develop with post-nasal drip because large amounts or excessively thick mucus can cause throat irritation. A sore throat, pain when swallowing, coughing, wheezing, and frequent swallowing are typical symptoms. Some people also experience hoarseness or have a rasping or cracking voice. These symptoms might last for a few moments, or perhaps for hours at a time.
Halitosis is a common symptom when infection is involved. This is because mucus often becomes bad-smelling when it contains bacteria or bacterial secretions. When it constantly drips down the throat, the odor can sometimes be smelt on the breath.
Symptoms Worsen at Night
Many people who suffer from nose and throat symptoms feel worse at night or first thing in the morning. This is because the nasal passages are more likely to become congested when lying down, and it is also more difficult to clear the throat. Another reason is that people swallow much less often when sleeping, which also leads to an increased likelihood of nose and throat congestion. People with post-nasal drip often have a sore throat in the morning, and might have a mucus build-up that is difficult to clear. Excessive thirst and dry mouth are also common.
Mucus is not digested in the stomach, and large amounts can cause a feeling of queasiness or heaviness. Severe nausea can sometimes be accompanied by vomiting. Heartburn can also develop, because the excess mucus can cause stomach acid to back up into the esophagus and throat.
People who experience symptoms of post-nasal drip sometimes feel tired and run down, especially if the condition is ongoing. Fatigue is more likely when a person has nausea or vomiting because these are physically tiring symptoms, especially when they occur on a regular basis. Chronic sinusitis can also cause fatigue, due to the presence of persistent infection.
When post-nasal drip is an ongoing condition, the sinuses can become irritated and swollen, leading to chronic inflammation and increased vulnerability to infection. Both infection and inflammation can worsen the drip and the associated symptoms. Chronic sinusitis sometimes leads to the development of nasal polyps, which tend to make them worse as well. Together, these conditions contribute to the formation of a vicious cycle that can be extremely unpleasant and distressing.
The relationship between sinusitis and post-nasal drip is not always clear. In some cases, a bacterial infection causes the drip, while other times, it is the reverse. Whatever the cause, antibiotics and antihistamines are commonly prescribed to interrupt the cycle and help the sinuses heal. If sinusitis persists to the point where polyps form, a medical professional might recommend surgery to remove the growths.