Most of us never notice the one to two quarts of mucus, produced daily by glands in the nose and throat, necessary to moisten and clean the nasal membranes, humidify the air, clear foreign matter that is inhaled and fight infection. This is because the majority of it is swallowed unconsciously within the course of the day. Sometimes however, a clogged, or dripping sensation from the back of the throat referred to as, “post-nasal drip” occurs causing mild irritation and discomfort.
What Causes Post-Nasal Drip? —Treatment Options
Abnormal Secretions—Excessively thick mucus secretions, or increasingly thin secretions can contribute to post-nasal drip. Thick secretions may result from dryness due to overheated buildings in the winter, sinus infections, or nasal allergies. These can be from foods such as dairy products. Sometimes thin secretions can become thick and turn green or yellow because of bacterial infection in the sinus area.
Thin mucus secretions may contribute to post nasal drip as well. These can be due to certain spicy foods, pregnancy, cold temperatures, hormonal changes, allergies, or bright lights. Some medications, such as oral contraception, or blood pressure medication may cause increased secretions in the sinus passages as well.
Swallowing—Sometimes muscles in the throat, mouth and esophagus fail to interact properly causing secretions to overflow into the larynx and breathing passages. This can cause hoarseness, coughing, and throat clearing.
The following factors may contribute to difficulty swallowing:
- Age—Muscles often lose coordination as we get older and lose strength. This can make it difficult for secretions to easily pass into the stomach.
- Sleep—Secretions gather since swallowing occurs less frequently. Coughing and throat clearing is often necessary when waking.
- Stress—Spasms may occur when throat muscles tighten making it feel like a lump in the throat. Throat clearing can actually irritate soft tissue at this point, as it often produces little or no mucus.
- Swelling or growths—These, (when obstructing the food pathways) can prevent the smooth passage of mucus secretions.
- GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)— Causes the contents of the stomach to back up, spilling acid into the throat or esophagus.
Effects on the Throat
- Sore, irritated throat
- Swollen tonsils, throat tissue
- General discomfort, (lump-like feeling) in throat
Treatment for Post-Nasal Drip-Allergy Remedies
A physician must conduct a detailed ear, nose, and throat examination. If necessary, x-rays, endoscopic procedures and laboratory tests may be conducted.
Treatment Options Based on Causes
Bacterial Infection—Antibiotics for short-term sinusitis. Surgery for chronic conditions to open blocked passages.
Remedies for Allergies—Prevention and avoidance of known allergen. Relief through antihistamines, decongestants, steroids, and allergy shots, (these may be sedating or non-sedating and come in the form of pills, liquids, sprays, or injectables.)
GERD—Elevating the head of the bed, eliminating caffeine and alcohol from the diet, and avoiding food or drink, two to three hours before bedtime. Certain over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to help treat GERD as well.
General Measures—Drink more water, avoid caffeine and diuretics. There are some mucus thinning agents available. Using a nasal douche or neti pot may help drain the sinus passages as well.
The Neti Pot—Home Remedies for Allergies
Although the practice of “saline irrigation” for allergy relief and the sinuses has been around for many years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the convention with the introduction of the “neti pot”, a teapot like container used to flush a saltwater solution through the nose and sinus cavities. By leaning over the sink and pouring the saline solution into one nostril, the neti pot helps rinse away mucus and other irritants in the sinus cavity and nasal passages.
Finding homeopathic remedies and “natural allergy medicine” solutions is important for many people, especially during times of high pollen such as during the spring and fall seasons.
Historic Use of the Neti Pot
Many people with sinus allergies develop a chronic condition known as, “rhinosinusitis”. This involves inflammation and sometimes infection of the sinus passages and cavities. Many centuries ago Ayurvedic Indian medicinal practices utilized saltwater to flush the nasal cavities of ancient peoples to remove foreign debris, pollen, and excess mucus. Practitioners of homeopathic allergy relief would irrigate the nasal cavities up to four times per day by delivering saltwater into one nostril and allowing it to readily drain out of the other.
Natural Allergy Relief-How it Helps
- Reduces nasal congestion
- Reduces headaches caused by sinus congestion
- May decrease dependence on antibiotics that fight sinus infection
- May decrease dependence on corticosteroid sprays used for nasal inflammation due to allergies
- Considered safe and well tolerated
- Should not be used for infants.
- Physician should be consulted regarding regular use.
- In certain cases, may actually create conditions for sinus infections.
- May remove critical lining of mucus membranes necessary in sinus passages with overuse.
- Sterile water must be used due to a parasitic amoeba, known as, “naegleria fowleri”, that has been linked to several deaths in neti pot users.
Natural Cure for Allergies—How the Neti Pot Works
A neti pot is a vessel that resembles a smaller version of Aladdin’s lamp. When warm sterile saltwater is placed in the pot, the user tilts their head to one side and places the spout in the nostril that is elevated. They then allow this to drain through the nasal cavities and through the other nostril. Nasal irrigation should never be attempted using non-sterile water or seawater due to issues with contamination.
Kosher salt is safe for use and prevents the discomfort of a burning sensation associated with a non-isotonic solution.
The Deviated Septum—Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
A deviated septum can wreak havoc in the lives of both allergy and non-allergy sufferers, depending on the significance of the blockage created by the condition.
When the thin wall (nasal septum) between the nostrils is displaced to one side, this causes one nasal passage to be smaller than the other. This can be significant, blocking one side of the nose and reducing the flow of air to the lungs. Crusting or bleeding may occur as well, due to the effect of dry air flowing through the nose. Obstruction of the nasal passages can happen also because of swollen tissues in the lining in the nose.
Many people live their entire lives without ever realizing they have septal deformities. Some structural abnormalities do however cause troubling symptoms.
These may include:
Obstruction of the nostrils: This may cause difficulty breathing, especially when allergies, a cold, or upper respiratory infection is present, which can already cause swelling or narrowing of nasal passages.
Nosebleeds: The drying of the nasal septum may increase the risk for nosebleeds.
Facial pain: One-sided facial pain may be caused by a deviated septum.
Noisy breathing while sleeping: Infants and young children may breath loudly if intranasal tissues are swollen or if they have a deviated septum.
Over awareness of the nasal cycle: Becoming overly aware of the cycle of obstruction from one nostril to the other may indicate a deviated septum.
Preference for sleeping on a particular side: A strong preference for sleeping on one side, as opposed to another may indicate that breathing is impaired due to a narrow nasal passage.
Causes of a Deviated Septum
A birth condition caused during fetal development
Injury: Injury during childbirth may cause a deviated septum in infants. Accidents may occur in children and adults that cause trauma to the nasal structure.
Aging: The normal aging process can exacerbate an already existing condition with the septum.
Acute Rhinosinosinusitus: This can make a deviated septum worse because of swollen nasal tissues that will further narrow nasal passages and cause obstruction.
Treatment of nasal obstruction may include medications to reduce the swelling, or adhesive strips that may help open the nasal passages. To completely correct a deviated septum however, surgery is necessary.