Postnasal Drip – An Overview and Much More


Postnasal cough syndrome, also called upper respiratory cough syndrome, is when mucus from the common cold runs down the back of the throat. Conditions like allergies and infections can cause excessive mucus production, which can lead to this.

Having a layer of mucus at the back of the throat is normal, as it helps ward off illness and provides lubrication. But when you feel like swallowing or coughing up large amounts of liquid, whether thick or thin, it often becomes unpleasant.

Postnasal syndrome is usually diagnosed based on your complaints, and there are several effective home remedies and medications that can help you get rid of it.

Get Medical Information / Cindy Chang

Postnasal leak symptoms

Postnasal discharge usually lasts for several days or weeks, depending on the cause. Sometimes it can be chronic; you can experience it for months. The effects are usually mild, and you may have a combination of symptoms .

Symptoms of postnasal leak include:

These symptoms can change throughout the day, and you may feel worse if you lie down for a while or after a long conversation.

Generally, a postnasal drip is not dangerous. However, some activities, such as skiing or diving, that require the use of a mask, can be uncomfortable or make you feel like you can't breathe.

When to seek medical help

Postnasal drip doesn't always require a doctor's visit and often goes away on its own.

However, you should consult your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms last more than a few weeks.
  • You have trouble swallowing
  • You feel like you're drowning
  • You have difficulty breathing
  • You have a fever, vomiting, or earache, which are signs of an infection that needs treatment.


There are several different causes of postnasal leakage. In some cases, your body produces more mucus, and in others, your body may not clear mucus as quickly as usual, causing it to build up.

Common causes of postnasal leak include :

Chronic conditions

Temporary conditions

Reactions to sudden alarms


Postnasal syndrome is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms. When you cough, you may notice thick or fine phlegm, and this is usually a sign that postnasal discharge is part of your condition. Generally, symptoms other than postnasal leak can help determine the cause.

Physical exam

If you have a fever, your postnasal discharge may be due to an infection. Your healthcare provider will examine the back of your throat for redness or swelling, and will look for and ask about other signs of infection (such as headaches, fever, chills, and muscle aches).

If your sputum is stained with blood, it could be a sign of a gastrointestinal or lung infection, or a medical condition that requires further testing.

Allergy tests

If postnasal drip symptoms recur every few days or weeks and pass between attacks, it could be due to an allergic reaction or food sensitivity, for example. Your healthcare team may recommend that you keep a diary of your symptoms, noting what you have eaten and what you may have found (such as pollen or pets). Allergy tests can help identify the trigger.


If you have frequent or persistent runny nose, it may have an anatomical cause, such as a deviated septum. You will need to have a physical exam and imaging tests so your healthcare team can visualize any variations that may be causing your symptoms.

Interventional tests

Postnasal diagnosis may include interventional testing if GERD is suspected as a possible cause. The diagnosis of GERD may include tests such as direct laryngoscopy (which visualizes the upper part of the pharynx), a 24-hour pH probe (which can check for acid reflux), or esophagogastroduodenoscopy (which visualizes the lining of the esophagus, stomach and the small intestine).

Watch out

There are several treatments for postnasal leakage . Here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable, for whatever reason:

  • Drink lots of water to lubricate your throat and keep mucus thin (thin mucus is less unpleasant).
  • Use a cool humidifier at night while you sleep.
  • Use a vaporizer, diffuser, or neti pot to which you can add essential oils like peppermint or eucalyptus.

Over-the-counter options

Congestion, sore throat, and cough can often be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) treatments:

Be sure to check with your healthcare professional or pharmacist before using new medications and avoid using decongestants for more than three days in a row.


There are also a number of prescription medications that are used to treat postnasal leakage. For example, treatments for hay fever include some over-the-counter and prescription drugs. With a persistent postnasal course or with a postnasal course complicated by asthma, Atrovent (ipratropium bromide) or steroids may be prescribed.

If you have a bacterial or fungal respiratory infection, you need antibiotics.

GERD requires treatment with a multi-pronged approach that includes avoiding fatty and spicy foods, over-the-counter or prescription medications, and sleeping with your head slightly raised rather than flat .


Anatomical changes may require surgery, such as sinus surgery , submucosal nasal resection, or turbinate reduction .

Get the word of drug information

Postnasal drip is very common. If you experience this multiple times a year, there is probably nothing to worry about. However, if you feel that your nose is running frequently or regularly, you should talk to your doctor about it. You may have an underlying cause that can be treated.

Frequently asked questions

  • You can do this if it doesn't go away after a week or so and you have symptoms that indicate you may have an infection or other medical condition that requires treatment, such as:

    • Fever (for no apparent reason)
    • Blood in a runny nose (especially if it comes from only one nostril)
    • Fetid mucus
    • Wheezing
    • Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)

  • Maybe. According to a much-cited 2000 study published in the journal CHEST , classic chicken soup reduces the number of neutrophils (white blood cells) in the upper respiratory tract in people with the common cold, reducing their symptoms. When it comes to postnasal administration, experts say that any warm liquid helps thin mucus, one of the keys to relief.

  • Yes. Nasal irrigation , also known as nasal irrigation, with a neti pot or other method, helps to clear mucus and clear the nasal passages and is more effective than saline nasal sprays. If you are using a medicated nasal spray, rinsing first can help make it more effective.

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