Self-help for post-nasal drip

How to help a runny nose

Your hacking cough may be caused by a post-nasal drip. Fed up? Try these self-help tips.

A post-nasal drip during winter can cause much discomfort. Most cases are caused by viruses and clear up by themselves, but what can you do about that nagging sensation in the back of your throat?

We look at simple ways to clear your throat.

What is a post-nasal drip?
The glands in the lining of your nose, throat and upper airways are constantly producing mucus to keep your airways moist and to prevent them from drying out.

When viruses or bacteria find their way into your upper airways, this warm and moist area provides a perfect breeding ground. As your immune system fights off these intruders, the body’s inflammatory response leads to the production of thick mucus and phlegm.

How do I know I have a post-nasal drip?
The very annoying sensation of “something thick” in the back of your throat is usually the first thing you’ll notice. At times, you may feel mucous dripping down your throat, prompting you to swallow.

You may also experience a sore throat and a cough that may become worse during the night, when you lie flat and swallow less often.

Can I treat a post-nasal drip at home?
Most cases of post-nasal drip can be treated at home with over-the-counter remedies and a few tips and tricks:

  • Try sleeping on more than one pillow – this will promote the draining of mucus from your upper airways.
  • Humidifying the air in your bedroom may also help.
  • A hot shower can help – the steam will dilute the mucus in your nasal passages, allowing easier drainage.
  • Irrigating your nose with a saline solution will clear the thick phlegm and also keep your mucous membrane moist.
  • You can also try the following over-the-counter medications:
  • Decongestants like phenylephrine or oxymetazoline
  • Normal saline (salt) drops in your nostrils
  • Lozenges like EASEaCOLD may help relieve a sore throat, or your can try a benzydamine (like Difflam) solution to gargle. Adding 1/2 – 1 tsp of salt to 500ml of water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) will also do the trick.

(Note: You should always consult a medical practitioner if you’re considering new medication.)

When should I go to a doctor?
Post-nasal drips usually clear up without a trip to the doctor. Occasionally, when caused by bacteria, antibiotics are necessary.

The following are signs that you might need antibiotics for your post-nasal drip:

  • Thick yellow, green or brown mucus draining from your nose or into the back of your throat
  • A bloody discharge from your nose, or when your clear your throat
  • Persistent fevers
  • When the mucus from your nose or the phlegm from your throat smells bad
  • Any hoarseness or change in voice
  • When your symptoms don’t clear up within about a week

In the case of children, it’s best to have a medical practitioner examine the child. If not treated or diagnosed correctly, a post-nasal drip can lead to a more severe respiratory tract infection.


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