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What Different Conditions Cause Post-Nasal Drip?

By Madeleine A.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Causes of post-nasal drip include colds, allergies, influenza, and even pregnancy. In addition, certain medications such as blood pressure medications and birth control pills can also cause post-nasal drip. In children, foreign objects trapped in the nasal passages can often cause post-nasal drip as well. Sometimes structural problems such as a deviated septum can also contribute to post-nasal drip, however, other causes are more common.

Frequently, extremes in temperature, spicy foods, and dairy products can cause post-nasal drip, as can breathing in certain chemicals, cleaning products, and strong perfumes. Although post-nasal drip is not considered a serious medical condition, it does produce annoying symptoms such as itchy nose, cough, and a running nose. In addition, it can cause the individual to sneeze excessively and cause the throat to itch. Over-the-counter treatments are usually effective, but sometimes prescription drugs are needed.

When allergies cause post-nasal drip, symptoms can usually be decreased by taking antihistamines or decongestant medications. Typically, antihistamine medications dry up excess mucus and alleviate the constant running nose, where decongestant medications decrease swelling that occurs in the sinuses. When infections cause post-nasal drip, the physician might recommend antibiotics. This is only applicable when the infection is related to a bacterial infection and not a virus.

Although antihistamines and decongestant medications are effective in alleviating the symptoms of post-nasal drip, they can cause significant side effects. For example, antihistamines are notorious for causing drowsiness, dry mouth, and daytime sleepiness. Decongestants, on the other hand can cause a rapid heartbeat, insomnia, and anxiety. Before taking these medications, people should talk to their health care providers to make sure they do not conflict with other medications they might be taking. In addition, these medications can also be contraindicated for patients with certain existing medical conditions.

When the cause of post-nasal drip cannot be determined, further medical evaluation might be necessary. The physician might recommend that the patient get a sinus x-ray to check for the presence of nasal polyps or other obstruction. In cases of obstruction, medications are generally not effective, however, sinus surgery can effectively treat the obstruction and restore a normal breathing pattern.

Complications of post-nasal drip can include an ear infection. When the Eustachian tube becomes blocked because of mucus, pressure and fluid build up and cause significant pain and hearing loss. In addition, post-nasal drip can cause alterations in taste sensations, which can cause a loss in taste or a metallic taste in the mouth. Usually, after the post-nasal drip has been resolved, taste sensations will return to normal. Aberrations in taste are usually the result of bacteria and other compounds that are present in mucous.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Melonlity — On Jun 07, 2014

@Soulfox -- good ideas. Particularly about changing the filter. The manufacturer may say you have a three-month filter, but change it monthly. That will cut down on allergens and protect your unit from having lint build up in it.

It's a good idea to clean behind the intake grates, too. If you shine a flashlight in one of those, you might be amazed at how much dust and lint builds up in there. You definitely don't want that stuff circulating in your home.

By Soulfox — On Jun 06, 2014

Allergies are one of the most common causes of post nasal drip. There are some steps you can take in your home to make those less of a problem.

For one thing, dust and mop regularly as those activities will cut down on allergens considerably. A word of caution, though -- dust with a damp cloth or you could stir up a bunch of allergens and end up with a face full of them. Wearing a mask is a good thing to do if you suffer from allergies and are dusting.

Another tip is to make sure the filter in your central heating and air unit is changed regularly. When I say regularly, I mean monthly. All the air circulated in your home gets pulled through that filter, so get a hypoallergenic one that traps allergens. They cost a bit more but they are worth it.

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