Diagram of the sinuses
Post-Nasal Drip is a non-life threatening medical condition in which the sinuses produce an excessive amount of mucus that accumulate in the back of the throat or the nose. It is a highly treatable condition through a variety of methods, including antibiotics and minor surgery, though several methods of relief exist that can be employed at home with little to no cost to the patient.
Post-Nasal Drip possesses a wide variety of symptoms. As a result, it is best to get the condition diagnosed by a professional--such as an otolaryngologist, allergist or gastro-enterologist--to rule out a more serious condition.
Some of the more common symptoms include: constant swallowing, a tickling in the throat, bad breath, coughing, snorting, or the excessive accumulation of mucus. A green or yellow-coloured mucus is indicative of a bacterial infection.
There are a wide variety of causes of Post-Nasal Drip including rhinitis, sinusitis, acid reflux, a swallowing disorder, or, more frequently, allergies. Conversely, Post-Nasal Drip has been known to cause halitosis, an underlying condition that causes bad breath originating from the back of the tongue.
In the case of chronic sinusitis, the culprit may be polyps in the nose blocking the sinuses and causing swelling. In the event that medication does not alleviate the problem, surgery is recommended.
There are a number of treatments and methods of relief for Post-Nasal Drip, though the first step should be consulting an ear, nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist). The doctor will evaluate your symptoms and determine whether you have Post-Nasal Drip and what the cause could be.
In the case of a bacterial infection, antibiotics may provide relief, though this is typically temporary. Over-the-counter drugs such as Mucinex tend to offer the quickest relief, especially for symptoms such as itchy/tickling in the throat, excess mucus and coughing, especially while lying in a prone position. In the case of Post-Nasal Drip being caused by acid reflux, over-the-counter acid medications and a change in diet may be used, as does sleeping with the head elevated to allow the sinuses to properly drain. Additionally, a change in diet may prove beneficial. Forgoing soda and other acidic drinks in favour of water may provide relief, as does avoiding fatty, greasy foods.
Other treatments include nasal irrigation, in which the nasal cavity is flushed out, clearing the airways and sinuses. These usually brings immediate relief. Sufferers can generally purchase a "neti" pot (Sanskrit for "nasal cleansing") at any chemist to use at home, or simply snort warm salt water for a cheap and effective way to treat the condition.
In rare cases, surgery will be necessary, usually when the patient suffers from chronic sinusitis. The surgery is minor and involves the opening of the blocked sinuses, all other methods of relief should be attempted before undergoing such a procedure.
In the event that Post-Nasal Drip is caused by allergies, antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays are often employed, though this comes with several caveats. See Warnings/Concerns for more. For long term relief, allergy injections can be helpful.
Despite being a relatively minor condition, a few methods of relief and treatments harbour some serious side effects.
According to entnet.org, the use of older, sedating antihistamines can cause the mucus secretions to actually become drier and thicker. Newer, prescription-only antihistamines do not have this effect.
Additionally, the use of steroids and decongestants, though beneficial, should be monitored by a health care professional, as side effects can aggravate high blood pressure, as well as the symptoms brought about from heart or thyroid disease.