Postnasal drip occurs when an individual's body creates more mucus than it usually does, or when the mucus their body produces is thicker than usual. Mucus is produced by the glands located in the linings of the intestinal tract, stomach, airways, throat, and nose. This substance is thick and wet enough to moisten the areas. It also traps and destroys viruses and bacteria to keep them from causing infection. Mucus is usually unnoticeable in the nose because it mixes with saliva and drips down the throat, but excess mucus can become noticeable. When it comes out the nostrils, it's a runny nose, and when it runs from the back of the nose to the throat, the term is postnasal drip. There are many potential causes. Postnasal drip usually doesn't require anything more than over-the-counter treatment and home remedies.
Try Oral Medication
There are several oral medications available over-the-counter to help combat postnasal drip. Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant that can reduce congestion and help eliminate the condition. Patients can also use nondrowsy antihistamines to reduce postnasal drip, such as loratadine-pseudoephedrine. These medications don't tend to provide quick relief, but they do build up in the system and help with allergies and postnasal drip on a long-term basis. Since they're antihistamines, these medications are also best for allergy-related postnasal drip and may not work very well on issues caused by viruses and the common cold. Pseudoephedrine shrinks blood vessels inside the nasal passages. When the blood vessels in the nose dilate, they can cause nasal congestion because the amount of space for air to pass through is compressed. In addition to treating postnasal drip, pseudoephedrine can treat sinus congestion and congestion of the eustachian tubes, which drain the fluid found in the inner ears. Pseudoephedrine shouldn't be used in children under four years old.
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Use Nasal Sprays
Some nasal sprays can help reduce or eliminate postnasal drip. Saline nasal sprays are available over-the-counter and should be sufficient for most cases of postnasal drip. In addition, patients can make a saline solution easily at home. The majority of over-the-counter saline sprays have an isotonic makeup, so the solution has the same concentration of saline as the body. Others are hypertonic, so they have higher salt concentrations than what's found in the body. Both of these can clear mucus from the nasal passages to reduce postnasal drip and runny noses. In addition, saline spray keeps the cilia within the nose healthy. These hair-like structures humidify the air moving into the lungs, trap viruses and bacteria to keep them from causing infection, and help individuals smell things. By promoting cilia health, research indicates saline sprays can treat sinusitis and rhinitis. If an individual's problems with postnasal drip continue and aren't being helped by home remedies, their doctor may prescribe a nasal spray that uses cortisone steroids.
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Use A Humidifier
Humidifiers release moisture into the air to make the air less dry. Cool mist vaporizers also work for this purpose. When the air is too dry, it can irritate an individual's nasal passages and make postnasal drip worse. Adding moisture to the air helps the nose avoid getting dried out and damaged. Though the basic function of all humidifiers is the same, different ones work in different ways. Evaporative humidifiers are built with an internal fan that sucks air inside. The air moves across a waterlogged filter, absorbs moisture, and is expelled back into the home. An ultrasonic humidifier uses vibrating technology rather than a fan, creating microscopic water drops that escape into the air. A cool-mist humidifier works by expelling room-temperature moisture, while warm mist humidifiers add water that's warmer than the room. Warm mist humidifiers work well if patients want to avoid cold temperatures in the winter, but cool mist humidifiers are better if they don't want to affect their home's internal temperature.
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Drink Lots of Fluids
One means of both preventing and treating postnasal drip is to drink lots of fluids. When individuals are hydrated, the mucus in their sinuses and nasal passages becomes thinner. This also prevents their skin from drying out, and dry skin can increase their body's production of mucus. Drinking water helps the nasal passages stay moistened. It can also help to drink hot or warm liquids like chicken soup or tea. The heat can thin the mucus and make an individual's nose run. Though a runny nose may be annoying, all the mucus that comes out of an individual's nose isn't going down the back of their throat. In addition, breathing in the steam from a hot beverage is a great way to keep nasal passages moist and further thin out mucus. The thinner mucus gets, the easier it is to expel. Thick mucus is also much more noticeable on a sensory level than thin mucus. If patients are not seeing a reduction in mucus despite staying hydrated and using steam for a while, they might want to talk to a doctor.
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Sleep With Head Elevated
It can help individuals to sleep with their head elevated to allow the mucus to drain properly. Sleep is vital to recovering from colds and viruses. An individual's immune system is much stronger when they're well-rested, and failing to sleep can weaken the immune system. But the discomfort from postnasal drip might leave patients lying awake. The easiest way to prop one's head up is by using multiple pillows behind the head. Two to three pillows should be sufficient to help mucus drain properly as individuals are sleeping on their back. There is also research indicating elevating the head helps alleviate sinus pressure. Lying flat, on the other hand, enlarges the blood vessels in the nose and causes more congestion. Individuals should make sure the pillows they use are hypoallergenic, since allergic reactions can make postnasal drip worse. If individuals have to sleep on their stomach, they should place a pillow under their abdomen.
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Use A Neti Pot
Neti pots are containers individuals can use to rinse mucus and debris out of their nose. By doing this, individuals help remove the excess mucus and keep it from dripping down the back of their throat. Neti pots can be used for any number of mucus-related issues including nasal allergies, colds, and sinus infections that present with stuffy mucus. Individuals can create a saltwater solution at home, but they must use distilled or sterilized bottled water. They should only use tap water if it's been through the highest quality filter available or they have boiled it for multiple minutes and let it cool to room temperature. A neti pot is used by tilting the head over the sink and putting the spout inside the upper nostril. Individuals doing this should breathe through their mouth so they don't inhale the solution, and pour the solution into one nostril until it drains out the other.
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Take A Hot Shower
Taking a hot shower can help clear the nasal passages, and the hotter the shower, the more effective it will be. Of course, individuals should never shower at a temperature hot enough to cause damage to their skin, and cold water is better than hot for their hair. When individuals are sick, though, a nice hot shower can be relaxing. As the bathroom fills up with steam, individuals end up breathing in the humid air. The steam works through the respiratory system and loosens the mucus in their nose and the back of their throat. It also helps thin the existing mucus, making it easier to clear by blowing their nose or coughing. A hot shower can have a significant impact on how much phlegm is coming up when individuals cough, and the expulsion of mucus can make it easier to breathe when their lungs are congested. A humidifier can have a similar effect to a hot shower, but individuals should make sure they clean it regularly.
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Wash Bed Sheets Regularly
Individuals should wash their bed sheets regularly to help prevent postnasal drip and reduce the severity of postnasal drip that does occur. The bed is where individuals spend most of their time, and the sheets accumulate a lot of grime. If individuals tracked any cold and flu germs into the house, they could end up in the sheets if they lay down without showering. Another issue is the accumulation of allergens, particularly for those with respiratory issues like asthma. The longer individuals go without washing their sheets, the more dust and dander and hair and other irritants collect on their pillowcases and mattress. When individuals are sleeping with their nose and mouth pressed against the pillow, they're more likely to have an allergic reaction. The frequency at which individuals should wash their bed sheets depends on the circumstances. If they have respiratory issues, every few days. If a partner is sick, even sooner than that. Most experts recommend weekly washing for individuals without cleaning concerns.
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Reduce Triggers For Allergies
One of the most proactive things individuals can do to deal with and prevent postnasal drip is to reduce triggers for allergies. Some individuals only experience allergies in the spring due to pollen, and some have pet allergies that cause issues throughout the year. There are a ton of different irritants that can cause the immune system to react like individuals have caught a cold. While individuals shouldn't have to live in a bubble, there are a few things they can do to avoid being exposed to allergens. One is to stay indoors on windy and dry days when a lot of dust and pollen is in the air. Another is to find an individual who's willing to take care of gardening and lawn chores like weeding, watering, and lawn mowing. It also helps if individuals avoid hanging laundry outside, since airborne pollen often sticks to towels and sheets and can irritate them when the fabrics are inside. Individuals should shower when they come in from the outdoors to rinse the pollen out of their hair and off their skin.