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10 Possible Causes of Chronic Postnasal Drip

10 Possible Causes of Chronic Postnasal Drip

Postnasal drip refers to the accumulation of mucus in the back of your throat. Your nose and your throat are connected, so when your nose is congested, mucus can drip backward into your throat. Postnasal drip doesn’t happen on its own; it always develops because of an underlying condition or illness.

While it's typically a temporary condition related to a cold or seasonal allergy flare-ups, some people experience chronic postnasal drip that lasts for months. The only way to know for sure what’s causing your postnasal drip is a specialty physical examination that yields a proper diagnosis. 

If you're dealing with persistent postnasal drip, the resulting cough and sore throat can be nothing short of annoying. Here, Dr. Conrad McCutcheon and the team at Memorial Village Sinus and Hearing in Houston, Texas, highlight 10 possible causes of chronic postnasal drip.

1. Chronic sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis, or recurring sinus infections, may lead to persistent postnasal drip. Inflammation of your sinuses can block the normal flow of mucus and it accumulates. With nowhere else to go, it eventually overflows and drips down the back of your throat.

2. Allergies

Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, can result in chronic postnasal drip. When you're exposed to allergens like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, your body's immune response can cause excessive mucus production.

3. Chronic rhinitis

Chronic rhinitis refers to long-term inflammation of your nasal passages, which can lead to increased mucus production and postnasal drip. Various factors can trigger it, including allergies, infections, temperature, humidity, sunlight, barometric pressure changes, and environmental irritants.

4. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Although chronic sinusitis, allergies, and chronic rhinitis are more common causes of postnasal drip, GERD can contribute when your stomach acids flow backward and irritate your esophagus. GERD is known for causing heartburn, but if the stomach acid irritates your esophagus, your body could react by producing excess mucus.

5. Side effects from medications

Certain medications, including some blood pressure drugs such as ACE inhibitors, and birth control pills, may cause postnasal drip as a side effect. If you suspect your medications are contributing to your symptoms, consult your prescribing provider.

Reminder: Never adjust or stop a prescription medication unless your doctor directs you to do so.

6. Infectious diseases

The common cold and other upper respiratory tract infections are frequent causes of postnasal drip. Post nasal drip can also be associated with less common infectious diseases such as sinonasal tuberculosis (which is rare) or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). These conditions and others like them may weaken your immune system and can lead to persistent symptoms. These conditions are relatively rare.

7. Environmental irritants

Exposure to environmental irritants like tobacco smoke, air pollution, or strong odors can trigger postnasal drip in some people. Avoiding these irritants or using protective measures, i.e. a mask, may help alleviate symptoms.

8. Abnormal structural issues

Structural issues within your nasal passages, such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum, can obstruct normal mucus flow and contribute to postnasal drip.

9. Dry air

In dry climates or during the winter when indoor heating systems are in use, your nasal passages can become dry and irritated. This may lead to increased mucus production as a protective mechanism. Although Houston isn’t a dry climate, air conditioning tends to dry out the air. This can be alleviated by moisturizing the nose with saline or a humidifier in the bedroom.

10. Occupational exposures 

Some occupations expose you to airborne irritants or pollutants, which can lead to chronic postnasal drip. According to a 2022 study, blue-collar occupations, such as firefighters, farmers, and fishermen, were the most at-risk for occupational exposures that lead to chronic sinusitis and postnasal drip. If your job involves such exposures, consider protective measures.

Get help for postnasal drip

Apart from being a nuisance, postnasal drip can cause a raw, sore throat and affect your voice. Dr. McCutcheon aims to treat the root cause of your postnasal drip to stop your symptoms at the source. 

To get help for chronic postnasal drip, call Memorial Village Sinus and Hearing at 281-822-3777 or request an appointment online.

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