Postnasal Drip Syndrome – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Postnasal drip syndrome describes an overproduction of nasal secretions by the mucous glands in the sinuses. This is uncomfortable and can lead to viral or bacterial infection and inflammation.

What is Postnasal Drip Syndrome?

Postnasal drip syndrome causes increased production of mucus glands in the body. These glands are located on the inner walls of the sinuses and they produce a thick, white fluid that keeps these areas moist and protects against invaders such as viruses and bacteria .

With normal mucus production, nobody will notice this discharge. The mucus runs continuously in small amounts into the throat area and is swallowed automatically. Only if the body produces more secretions than normal or the mucus is significantly thicker will the affected person notice it.

An overproduction of this mucus then runs out of the front end of the nose and is simply referred to as a runny nose . However, when the mucus runs into the throat at the back of the nose, it’s called postnasal drip syndrome.


The overproduction of nasal secretions that triggers postnasal drip syndrome can have a variety of causes.

These include: common cold , flu , allergy (postnasal drip allergic syndrome), sinus infection , foreign object in the nose (common in young children), pregnancy, medications (especially birth control and blood pressure medication), warped septum (abnormal growth of the wall between the nostrils) or other deformity, weather change (very cold or dry weather), certain foods (e.g. very spicy food), fumes from chemicals, perfumes, cleaning products, cigarette smoke or other sources.

Every now and then the problem is not due to an overproduction of nasal secretions, but rather that the liquid cannot be broken down properly. Swallowing problems can also lead to postnasal drip syndrome if the nasal secretion builds up in the throat and cannot be discharged. Such problems can occur with age or with disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease .

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A characteristic sign of the disease is a constant flow of mucus from the nose through the throat into the lower respiratory tract. The nose is blocked and the constantly newly produced secretion cannot drain. So it takes its way inwards via the throat. As a result, the patient constantly feels the need to clear his throat.

The accumulated mucus is spat out or swallowed. This excessive secretion production is particularly unpleasant when lying down. Shortness of breath can also occur at night during sleep due to obstruction of the airways . In addition, those affected suffer from hoarseness , which is noticeable in a rough voice. A chronic dry cough may develop, accompanied by an itchy throat.

Patients often complain of difficulty and pain when swallowing . Due to the difficult or completely prevented nasal breathing, the ability to smell and the sense of taste are restricted. A general feeling of illness is often felt, patients feel tired and exhausted.

Headaches and facial pain may occur . The ears can also be involved and react with pain and a feeling of pressure. A typical accompanying symptom of the disease is bad breath . In severe cases, fever may occur. If the disease is not treated, the pathogens contained in the mucus can eventually infect the bronchi as well.

Diagnosis & History

Postnasal drip syndrome causes an uncomfortable feeling in the throat area that encourages the sufferer to keep swallowing. In many cases, the fluid that collects in the throat is actually an irritant because it contains substances that can cause inflammation and cause a cough.

In most cases, this gets particularly bad at night. Postnasal drip syndrome is the most common cause of chronic cough. Accompanying symptoms are a scratchy throat and a hotter voice. When mucus rises to the eustachian tube (which connects the throat to the middle ear ), a painful ear infection can occur. A doctor diagnoses postnasal drip syndrome by physically examining the patient and asking about the exact symptoms.


Due to the postnasal drip syndrome, those affected suffer from various symptoms. First and foremost, however, there is a chronic cold, which cannot be treated again with the usual medicines and remedies. The infection can also spread to the bronchi, causing serious breathing problems.

Those affected appear exhausted and tired and often suffer from a general feeling of illness. The patient’s resilience also noticeably decreases as a result of the postnasal drip syndrome. It is not uncommon for patients to find it difficult to speak, so that they have to constantly clear their throat or cough. Coughing at night can also have a very negative effect on the quality of sleep, which can lead to sleep disorders or other mental upsets.

In the worst case, if left untreated, postnasal drip syndrome can lead to asthma. Self-healing does not usually occur with this disease, so that the patients are usually dependent on medical treatment. Usually there are no special complications. The symptoms can be well limited and alleviated with the help of medication.

When should you go to the doctor?

If you experience hoarseness, coughing or the typical feeling of a lump in your throat, we recommend that you see a doctor. The symptoms indicate a serious condition that needs to be evaluated by a specialist and treated if necessary. If the symptoms occur in connection with an acute or chronic infection in the nasal cavity, the postnasal drip syndrome may be present.

Patients should see their family doctor or an ENT doctor . If the symptoms occur over a longer period of time, it is probably due to a chronic disease. Therefore, people suffering from allergic rhinitis or sinusitis should see a doctor as soon as possible if the symptoms described occur. Medical advice is required if the symptoms do not decrease with nasal rinsing and other home remedies.

In addition to the ear, nose and throat doctor, you can also go to a specialist in diseases of the nasal passages if you have postnasal drip syndrome. In the case of severe symptoms, an inpatient stay in a specialist clinic is necessary. However, postnasal drip syndrome often resolves on its own once the causative disorder has been overcome.

Treatment & Therapy

Treatment for postnasal drip syndrome depends on its cause. A bacterial infection is usually treated with antibiotics. But even green or yellow nasal discharge is not always a sign of a bacterial infection.

Colds can also stain mucus, and these are caused by viruses and do not respond to antibiotics . Antihistamines or decongestants can help with postnasal drip syndrome caused by viruses. Special nasal sprays for allergies can also help. Old antihistamines (Benadryl, Chlor-Trimetron) that come in spray form may not be the best solution as they thicken the secretion. This should be discussed with your doctor.

Another treatment option is to dilute the excessively thick secretion. This can happen through drinking a lot of fluids, keeping the room air moist and taking certain medications (e.g. guaifenesin). If an allergy is present, the allergens should be identified and avoided. If a cold with increased mucus production does not heal for more than ten days, the doctor should be consulted as the infection may be bacterial.


Viral or bacterial infections are difficult to prevent. In order to counteract the unpleasant symptoms of postnasal drip syndrome , it is important to ensure that you drink plenty of fluids. The nasal secretion only stays thin and reduces the risk of infection if there is enough fluid in the body. Caffeine should also be avoided, as it leads to increased production of nasal secretions.


If the postnasal drip syndrome is treated and cured with antibiotics or other medication, a new viral or bacterial infection should be prevented at all costs. It is important to pay attention to a few things: Regular hand washing and disinfection can reduce reinfection. It is important to drink enough, regularly, primarily water. Sufficient fluid intake keeps the mucus liquid and also prevents infections.

Caffeine should also be avoided during aftercare, as this stimulates the production of mucus. Sufficient rest supports the recovery in the acute phase. If an allergy is the cause, it is important to avoid the allergy triggers in the follow-up treatment and to have the medication adjusted correctly. After surgical treatment of postnasal drip syndrome, it is important to take the prescribed medication as prescribed.

This is the only way to ensure successful healing. Most follow-up care takes place in the hospital. After two to four days, the aftercare treatment can be continued at home. In order to reduce crusting in the nose, regular use of nasal rinses is recommended after an operation. If bleeding occurs suddenly or if you feel unwell, consult a doctor. The aim of follow-up care for postnasal drip syndrome is to prevent the disease from recurring. Regular visits to an ear, nose and throat doctor help identify new infections and act early.

You can do that yourself

If postnasal drip syndrome is caused by bacteria, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. However, viruses usually cause the infection. There is still no really effective remedy against them. However, the patient has many measures to alleviate the symptoms of the disease and to recover.

To do this, the sometimes very viscous mucus must first be loosened so that further infections, such as bronchitis, do not occur. Drinking a lot is therefore the motto, because this is the only way the mucus can liquefy and loosen. The best are hot teas that have an expectorant effect, such as the broth of eucalyptus leaves , thyme or elderflower . However, alcoholic beverages are taboo as they weaken the body.

Regular saline nasal rinses clean the nose down to the sinuses, flushing out pathogens in the process. Nasal douches and the bases for physiological saline solutions are available from various manufacturers and in various designs in pharmacies . Nasal sprays, which have a decongestant effect, also help. However, they should not be used for longer than a week, otherwise they can become addictive. With postnasal drip syndrome, the patient needs plenty of rest— bed rest is best . He should also bring patience, because the body needs a while to completely heal the virus attack.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.