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What are the Most Common Symptoms of Post-Nasal Drip?

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  • Originally Written By: Patti Kate
  • Revised By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2016
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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.

Nasal Symptoms

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.

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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.

Nausea

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.

Fatigue

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.

Chronic Sinusitis

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.

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Discuss this Article

anon929693
Post 10

My mom took me for an allergy test when I was a teenager because I seemed to always have a cold. I'd have congestion, tickle in the throat causing cough and headaches. Nothing showed for allergies, so I have non-allergic rhinitis. I was prescribed Allegra-D back when it needed an Rx but when I was an adult I gave it up because of cost factors. Over time I've have increasing fatigue, and in the last few years increased headaches, morning nausea (I was pregnant twice so this was dismissed as hormone related, except it still isn't gone!) and more frequent headaches.

Most of my rhinitis symptoms seemed so mild, I didn't really think it was important to take care of

it. I'd just deal. Then I started having mood disturbances, and these were the last straw. I'm going to start taking Allegra again, first without the D because it's cheaper, and a saline spray. I'm becoming convinced that all of my symptoms are related to post nasal drip and swollen sinuses.
technerd
Post 8

This last year my allergies made me feel sick and everything.

anon301754
Post 7

I went to my doctor because I was experiencing what seemed to be recurring strep throat around the months that strongly bring out my allergies, but what was actually discovered is that I have post-nasal drip.

My doctor prescribed a nose spray to me called "Nasacort" two months ago. Since then I have not experienced any sort of sore throat/cold symptoms. I also take an allergy pill during the day when necessary (but not too often anymore!).

For anyone experiencing this problem I would highly recommend to get yourself on a nasal spray! I take it once before I go to bed, two squirts in each nostril. You will be so happy you did! Good luck to all.

anon300736
Post 6

I definitely have exactly what is described here! It is so annoying. And also when I run, all the mucus drips down into my throat and then it closes up. I'm already better than most people in my grade at running, but I always have slow down because of my throat, not because I'm tired. If I could sort this out I would be much better.

shell4life
Post 4

I know that my post-nasal drip is caused by allergies. I have two dogs that live in the house, and I just don't have the heart to kick them out, so I take medication to deal with my symptoms.

I take an antihistamine to stop the runny nose, and it seems to dry everything up. However, it goes to the extreme. My nasal passages and throat become too dry, and I need a humidifier to help moisten them.

Still, I think I would rather have a dry nose and throat than have the post-nasal drip run out of control. Does anyone else have issues with allergy medication and overly dry sinuses?

seag47
Post 3

Every time I get a sinus infection, I notice that the post-nasal drip causes bad breath. If I breathe out through my mouth when I have an object close to my face, the smell bounces back to my nose, and I realize that I have offensive breath.

I always go get antibiotics from my doctor when I'm sure that I have a sinus infection, because it usually won't go away on its own. While I am taking the drugs, I rinse with strong mouthwash a couple of times a day to control the bad breath.

I also keep some breath freshening drops in my purse for when I'm at work. I am self-conscious when talking to coworkers in this condition, and the drops do seem to help.

Oceana
Post 2

@kylee07drg – I also suffer from chronic post-nasal drip at night. I will tell you that though it doesn't seem natural or comfortable at first, if you give up on trying to breathe through your nose and just breathe fully through your mouth, you will sleep better.

I do wake up with a very dry throat because I breathe through my mouth, but I simply keep a tall glass of water on the bedside table and sip it as needed. I just got so tired of fighting the congestion, and it's so much easier this way.

The good news is that even though your throat will get dry, the mucus in the post-nasal drip will lubricate it a little during the night! I try to look on the bright side of things.

kylee07drg
Post 1

I suffer from chronic allergies, and though I take medication daily for them, they don't go away. Though I will be fine when I first lay down to sleep, by the time I wake up, I catch myself breathing through my mouth, because my nose is completely clogged.

I have to sleep with my head propped up on two pillows, because the post-nasal drip will strangle me if I lay on just one pillow. I have choked on it and awakened gasping for breath before, and I try to avoid this unpleasant feeling.

I'm glad my husband is a deep sleeper, because I wake up several times during the night and have to blow my nose. This doesn't usually clear things up totally, and I continue to have post-nasal drip until I get up.

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