There it is again — that tickling, scratchy, feeling at the back of your throat — and along with that sensation, a nagging question: How long does post-nasal drip last?
For many, post-nasal drip is a part of life, especially during allergy season. But is that healthy? Learn more about what causes post-nasal drip and chronic post-nasal drip, as well as what your options are for finding relief.
Mucus and post-nasal drip, an overview:
In order to better understand what causes post-nasal drip and how long post-nasal drip lasts, we need to get familiar with the role of mucus. Your body produces mucus every day to both lubricate your sinuses and help flush allergens and germs out of your system. Typically, this mucus exits your body in one of two ways: by mixing with your saliva and being swallowed or when you blow your nose.
Post-nasal drip is primarily caused when factors such as dry air, illness, allergens, and other irritants induce the creation of an overabundance of mucus in your sinuses. When your body produces too much mucus, it’s unable to mix adequately with your saliva, and patients being to be able to feel this excess mucus as it makes its way down the back of the throat.
Post-nasal drip causes
The following factors have been shown to increase your chances of experiencing post-nasal drip:
- Colds, the flu, sinusitis (psst… learn how to tell the difference between sinusitis and a cold)
- Deviated septum
- Dry air
- Irritants and fumes such as smoke, strong scents, and other chemicals
- Some medications, including birth control and blood pressure medications
- Some spicy foods
Post-nasal drip symptoms
Not sure if you have post-nasal drip or “just” a sore throat? Check and see if you are also experiencing any of these common post-nasal drip symptoms:
- A feeling of having to constantly clear one’s throat
- Bad breath
- Chronic cough (Often worse at night — read more about why sinusitis is worse at night)
- Nausea (caused by excess mucus in the stomach)
- Scratchy, sore throat
Note: Whether you are experiencing post-nasal drip by itself or in conjunction with sinusitis, you may find some additional relief at night by propping your head up. If you notice that your sleep is unusually disturbed, read our blog regarding chronic sinusitis and sleep apnea.
Is post-nasal drip serious? And can you have chronic post-nasal drip?
While post-nasal drip certainly is a nuisance, it is not considered to be a serious condition. This is fortunate, since many people live with chronic post-nasal drip, especially during allergy season.
That said, many doctors recommend seeing your doctor if your post-nasal drip has not cleared up within 10 days. Most cases of post-nasal drip go away with time, but long-lasting, untreated post-nasal drip and excess mucus can create a breeding ground for germs, which in turn can lead to additional health complications, including sinus infections and ear infections.
If you notice that your excess mucus has become discolored or bloody, has a bad odor, or is accompanied by a fever, visit your doctor as soon as possible to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan.
How do you get rid of post-nasal drip? Post-nasal drip treatments.
For some lucky patients, the answer to the question “How long does post-nasal drip last?” is often, “Once you take action.” The following actions can be performed at home and may help reduce your post-nasal drip symptoms:
- Create moisture in the air: Extra moisture in the air can help thin out your mucus. If your nose is dried out, try using humidifiers, taking steam baths, and drinking hot tea or eating chicken soup. Be sure to hydrate consistently.
- Use decongestants and antihistamines (with care): For some, the key to getting rid of their post-nasal drip is to actually dry out the mucus (although for others, this can make their symptoms worse). Decongestants such as Sudafed and antihistamines such as Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, Clarinex, and Zyrtec have been successful. We recommend speaking with your doctor before trying these medications.
- Use medication to thin the mucus: If you didn’t have luck thinning your mucus via hydration or the other methods mentioned above, the medication Mucinex also thins your mucus and may be able to provide you with relief.
- Clear your environment of allergens: Is your post-nasal drip triggered by allergens? Keeping a clean, allergen-free environment can help. Clean your linens (including your drapes and carpets) regularly. Put dust-mite covers on your bedding. Make sure to clean/replace your air filters regularly.
- Flush: Use saline sprays or Neti pots (with distilled or boiled water) to flush the excess mucus, germs, etc. clogging your sinuses.
- Visit your doctor: Your ENT is your number one ally in your battle against post-nasal drip. If you aren’t having luck finding relief from post-nasal drip using the above methods, your doctor may prescribe a nasal steroid spray. Depending on the severity and regularity of your post-nasal drip, they may also recommend pursuing surgical procedures, including balloon sinuplasty, the Clarifix procedure, septoplasty, and others.
So, how long does post-nasal drip last?
Patients who ask us, “How long does post-nasal drip last?” are really asking another question: “How can I stop post-nasal drip immediately?” While it’s more or less impossible to stop post-nasal drip immediately, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to find relief very quickly.
ENT expert Dr. Napoleon G. Bequer has over 30 years of treating ear, nose, and throat conditions such as post-nasal drip. Whether you want guidance on what post-nasal drip medications to try or are curious about pursuing balloon sinuplasty in Tampa, the staff at Sinus Solutions of South Florida is here to help.
Call Sinus Solutions of South Florida at 561-790-7744 or contact us online today!