Post-Nasal Drip Treatments Based on 6 Causes

Allergies, Infections, Acid Reflux, and More

What Is Post-Nasal Drip?

Post-nasal drip, or upper airway cough syndrome (UACS), is a common disorder associated with many causes including: colds, allergies, acid reflux, and medications.

Our bodies are constantly producing mucus, which is beneficial because it traps germs and other debris that might cause us harm. We continually have mucus draining down the back of our throats, but most of the time we aren't aware of it.

Post-nasal drip occurs when abnormally thin or thick mucous makes us aware of it running down the back of our throats. It is the sensation of having a "drip" in the back of the throat, which can also be accompanied by feeling the need to clear your throat. You likely will also suffer from a chronic cough.

Post-nasal drip treatment is dependent on the root cause of the condition. This article will cover different types of treatments for post-nasal drip including things that you can do at home.

Treating Post-Nasal Drip Caused by Acid Reflux
 Verywell /Julie Bang 

Treating Post-Nasal Drip at Home

When treating post-nasal drip at home you may need to vary your treatment slightly depending on whether the secretions are thick or thin. Try the tips below based upon the cause of your symptoms.

Treating Post-Nasal Drip Caused by Allergies

You may notice that you experience post-nasal drip during Hay Fever season. The following are treatments for post-nasal drip caused by allergies:

  • Try an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine or loratadine.
  • If you know what is causing your allergies, avoid triggers.
  • If you do not know what you are allergic to, you should see an allergist/immunologist to determine the cause and discuss the possibility of long term allergy treatment.
  • If you suffer from pollen allergies, keep your windows closed during pollen season, and take a shower after coming indoors to remove any pollen that may have landed on your clothes or in your hair.
  • Decongestants, such as topical pseudoephedrine, can be used, but don't use topical preparations for more than three days in a row to avoid rebound congestion.
  • Newer nasal sprays, such as mometasone, which claim to not cause rebound congestion, are available by prescription and can be used on a longer-term basis than traditional decongestants.

Treating Post-Nasal Drip Caused by Infections

Post-nasal drip can also be caused by infections, including the common cold, RSV, influenza, or sinusitis. The following treatments are available for post-nasal drip caused by an infection. It's important to also see a healthcare provider to rule out the need for antibiotics.

  • Decongestants, including pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, and oxymetazoline, may be helpful. As noted above, avoid using these products for longer than three days to prevent rebound congestion. Decongestants are helpful for most adults but should not be used in children.
  • Drink as much water or other fluids as possible.
  • Vapor rubs or other products containing menthol, including cough drops, can be helpful, but only use them as prescribed. These products are not for use with small children.
  • Humidifiers and nasal saline mists can thin mucus.

Treating Post-Nasal Drip Caused by Acid Reflux (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux, can cause post-nasal drip. GERD is a condition where acid from the stomach is regurgitated back into the esophagus. GERD is worse at night because gravity makes it easier for acid to "backwash" into the esophagus and back of the throat.

Stomach acid is extremely irritating to tissue outside of the stomach, and this irritation of the back of the throat and esophagus can cause not only post-nasal drip, but also sore throat, laryngitis, and a persistent cough. To treat post-nasal drip caused by GERD:

  • Try an over-the-counter antacid, such as Tums or omeprazole.
  • Don't eat before bedtime.
  • Avoid trigger foods, such as chocolate, soda pop, or spicy foods.
  • Sleep in an elevated position instead of lying flat.
  • If acid reflux persists, see a healthcare provider.

Treating Post-Nasal Drip Caused by Medications

The only cure for post-nasal drip that results as a side effect of a medication, such as birth control or blood pressure medications, is to stop taking the medicine. Note: DO NOT stop taking a medication without discussing with your healthcare provider. However, you should be aware that many side effects subside the longer a medication is taken.

To avoid a dangerous medication interaction, do not take any additional medications, even over-the-counter or herbal medications, for post-nasal drip without clearing them with your healthcare provider and/or pharmacist. Humidifiers, saline mist, and neti pots can be used. Avoid dairy if mucus is thick, and avoid spicy foods if mucus is thin. Always drink plenty of water.

Treating Post-Nasal Drip Caused by Structural (Anatomical) Abnormalities

Post-nasal drip can result from abnormalities in other structures involving the nose and sinuses. Symptoms typically last longer than a few weeks. In this case, you should see an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) to find out if you need corrective surgery and to discuss ways to manage post-nasal drip until the abnormalities can be surgically corrected. Typical surgeries may include:

Treating Post-Nasal Drip Caused by Hormones

Changes in your body's levels of certain hormones can also be a cause of post-nasal drip. If you are pregnant, do not take any medication to treat post-nasal drip without the approval of your healthcare provider. Humidifiers, saline mists and neti pots can be used safely during pregnancy.

If your fluctuating hormone levels are caused by another condition, such as menopause, you can use the treatments listed in this article on home remedies for post-nasal drip, but you should see your healthcare provider to discuss options such as hormone replacement therapy.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can COVID-19 cause post-nasal drip?

    Yes. COVID can cause nasal congestion that results in mucus and post-nasal drip. However, there are other common conditions that cause this sensation. A more common nasal-related effect of COVID is the loss of the sense of smell.

  • How do I get rid of post-nasal drip from acid reflux?

    Changing your diet is the most effective way to reduce reflux-related post-nasal drip. Foods to avoid include citrus, tomatoes, onions, fatty foods, alcohol, and caffeinated foods. Also, do not eat within three hours of bedtime. In some cases, you may also benefit from losing weight or taking medication for acid reflux disease. 

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9 Sources
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