Postnasal Drip

Postnasal drip is that sensation of mucus running down the back of your throat.  It frequently occurs with a cold, but sometimes people experience the problem on and off for long periods of time.  It is often worse first thing in the morning.  Sometimes it is associated with a sore throat, hoarseness, a tickle, cough and the feeling that you have to clear your throat over and over again.
The glands in your nose and throat continually produce mucus (one to two quarts a day). It moistens and cleans the nasal membranes, humidifies air, traps and clears inhaled foreign matter, and fights infection. Although mucus normally is swallowed unconsciously, the feeling that it is accumulating in the throat or dripping from the back of your nose is called post-nasal drip.



This feeling can be caused by excessive or thick secretions, by swallowing disorders or by inflammation of the throat.

Abnormal secretions

Increased thin clear secretions

  • colds and flu (temporary increase for several days)
  • allergies (a persistent runny nose, often associated with sneezing)
  • nasal polyps
  • overly sensitive nasal reflex to cold temperatures, bright lights, certain foods/spices, pregnancy, and other hormonal changes
  • air pollution
  • various drugs (including birth control pills and high blood pressure medications)
  • vasomotor rhinitis

Increased thick secretions

  • too little moisture in heated buildings and homes- particularly during the winter
  • acute sinusitis, especially when the secretions become yellow, brown or green
  • chronic sinusitis when the discolored discharge lasts for weeks
  • allergies, especially to certain foods, such as dairy products
  • antihistamines, diuretics and some tranquilizers can thicken mucus production
  • in children, thick secretions from one side of the nose can mean that something is stuck in the nose (such as a bean, wadded paper, or piece of toy)
  • getting older. Another one of the joys of passing years is that your mucus production slows down and your mucus gets thicker

Swallowing Problems

  • acid reflux- The most common and less obvious cause of postnasal drip is the irritation caused by dilute acid seeping up the esophagus, especially at night.
  • blockage of the esophagus - When the nerve and muscle interaction in the mouth, throat, and food passage (esophagus) aren't working properly, overflow secretions can spill into the voice box (larynx) and breathing passages (trachea and bronchi) causing hoarseness, throat clearing, or cough.

Underlying Factors

  • with age and other neurologic disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, swallowing muscles often lose strength and coordination
  • Zenker’s diverticulum
  • growths or swelling in the food passage can slow or prevent the movement of liquids and/or solids.

Treatment For Post-Nasal Drip

A correct diagnosis requires a detailed ear, nose, and throat exam and possible laboratory, endoscopic, and x-ray studies. Each treatment is different:


  • medical history
  • nasal examination
  • endoscopy
  • CT scan
  • allergy testing
  • barium esophogram or modified barium swallow- different x-ray exams of the swallowing mechanism


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