5 Home Remedies for Postnasal Drip

man with tissues
Coughing every morning can be a symptom of postnasal drip. Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

Every morning, you wake up with a sore throat, a hacking cough, or simply clearing your throat -- or you may just feel as if something has settled in the back of your throat. Any of those experiences could mean that you've got postnasal drip.

On any given day, you've got a liter (2 pints) or more of mucus running down the back of your throat. That's an awful lot of slime running through your head, but it serves a significant purpose. Mucus acts as a broom, cleaning out the nasal passages. It kicks out bacteria, viruses, and other infection-causing invaders and clears out other foreign particles. Mucus also helps humidify the air that travels in your body, keeping you and your insides comfortable. Unless you think about it, you probably don't even notice all that mucus making its way down your throat. But if you become acutely aware of mucus in the back of your throat or feel as if someone has turned on a faucet in your head, you're probably dealing with postnasal drip.

Postnasal drip happens when mucus production goes awry. There may be an overproduction of mucus, which gives you that typical drip, drip, drip feeling in the back of your throat. In that case, the mucus is clear, thin, and very runny. At the other extreme is thick, sticky mucus that is yellow or green. This kind of mucus occurs when mucus production slows down and thickens, hanging around in the throat. Both types can make you miserable when you're already feeling fatigued, feverish, or just altogether rotten.

Many factors can trigger a change in mucus production, including allergies, air pollution, colds/flu, cold air, deviated septum, dusty/smoky conditions, age, pregnancy, nasal or sinus polyps and sinus infections. Antihistamines, diuretics, and some tranquilizers can also dry up mucus production. When those commercials say that a product gives you "dry mouth," you can bet it gives you a dry nose and throat, too.

Some home remedies can ease the symptoms of postnasal drip and might be able to prevent the problem. Keep reading to learn more.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

5

Gargle With Salt Water

Gargle salt water to help soothe a throat raw from postnasal drip.
Gargle salt water to help soothe a throat raw from postnasal drip.
Publications International, Ltd.

Most problems with postnasal drip are merely irritating and eventually will go away. But you can alleviate some symptoms by gargling with salt water to help soothe your sore throat.

The salty water helps to thin the mucus that's dripping in the back of your throat. That's a big bonus when you're dealing with the sticky, gooey mucus that seems intractable, helping your body more quickly move the stuff through your system and out of your body.

Gargling also helps rinse viruses, bacteria, and fungi out of your throat. Ridding your body of these elements can make a big difference in your overall symptoms and possibly shorten the duration of your illness.

And it's easy to do: Just add 1/2 teaspoon salt to 1 cup warm water and gargle away. Spit out the concoction after a few seconds.

Repeating this process two or three times per day can help you heal and may help reduce the awfulness of your symptoms, too. In fact, at least one study shows that gargling with saltwater can alleviate many diverse cold symptoms and perhaps provide upkeep for your respiratory tract [source: O'Connor].

4

Use Baking Soda

Here's another remedy that doesn't involve gargling: Mix 1 cup warm water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Get a nasal syringe and squirt the mixture into your nostril, closing off the back of your palate and your throat. Tilt your head backward, forward, and to each side for eight to ten seconds in each position to get the solution through all four of your sinus cavities.

After you swish everything around, gently blow your nose. Try squirting in three or four bulbs full of the solution on each side of your nose. If you don't have a bulb syringe, you can snort the mixture out of your cupped hand. Try this process up to six times a day when you're dealing with postnasal drip. If you want to avoid future problems, do it twice a day [source: Shute].

Don't get crazy and add extra salt to this recipe. Too much salt will dry out your sinuses and potentially cause unpleasant side effects.

3

Stay Hydrated

Drinking water
Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
Ballyscanlon/ Photodisc/Getty Images

Your body is mostly made up of water, so it makes sense that swilling plenty of the stuff every day keeps all of your cells working optimally. Drinking enough water is a common-sense defense against postnasal drip. It keeps your mucus thin and your body, including your nasal passages, well hydrated.

The old rule of thumb was that you should drink at least eight 8-ounce (236-milliliter) glasses of water a day. That's a very rough baseline that really doesn't serve much of a purpose, because some people — particularly those who or active, ill or breastfeeding — often need much more fluid.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine estimates that men need about 15.5 cups (3.6 liters or 124 fluid ounces) of water per day. For women, the number is closer to 11.5 cups. About a fifth of your hydration often comes from water in your foods [source: Mayo Clinic]. Chicken soup is enjoyable at any time, but especially when you're sick — it will add fluids and food to your body, while steam clears out your blocked nostrils.

As a rule of thumb, simply drink water when you're thirsty. And if your urine is dark yellow, it's a sign that you're not getting enough hydration. Shoot for urine that's a pale straw color or colorless instead.

2

Try Over-the-Counter Medicine

Sometimes, modern medicines are truly a godsend for those struggling with sinus issues like postnasal drip. One glance at the pharmacy aisle of your local store and you'll see there are dozens of various decongestants available, and you might find that one of them is your ticket to feeling much better.

A decongestant is a seemingly magical medicine that can help drain your sinuses by narrowing the blood vessels to lessen swelling and congestion [source: WebMD]. If you opt for pills, you may find relief in drugs containing pseudoephedrine (under brand names like Sudafed) or non-drowsy loratadine-pseudoephedrine (brand name Claritin D) [source: National Health Service]. Pseudoephedrine is sold behind the pharmacy counter in the U.S. so you have to ask for it – many other decongestants lack this ingredient, and without it you may find that the medicine doesn't work as well.

Saline nasal sprays may help you rinse out your sinuses without causing dryness, and sprays containing decongestants may reduce postnasal drip in just minutes instead of hours [source: Healthline].

Keep in mind that most over-the-counter sinus medicines are only meant be used for a week or so. Sinus sprays, for example, may be habit-forming, so use them in moderation.

1

Improve Your Environment

You can't always control your physical environment. But by being aware of irritants that may worsen postnasal drip, you can at least keep a few variables in mind in your daily life. Tweaking your routine or altering your home or work space just a bit may make a substantial difference in sinus health.

  • Raise the Humidity. Keep the humidity high and stable in your house, particularly in winter when humidity tends to be low and the air is dry. You can use small one-room humidifiers or invest in a larger unit that will improve humidity levels throughout an apartment or small house.
  • Away with allergens. If cat dander tends to make your mucus start multiplying, it's logical that you can avoid postnasal drip by avoiding that allergen. If you're not sure what allergies aggravate your nasal passages, consultant an allergist. Or try to eliminate the things that you think might be causing them (kitty might need to move away for a little) and then reintroducing them one by one into your life or body and see what triggers.
  • Prop Up Your Head. When trying to sleep, prop up your head on pillows to keep the mucus from collecting in your throat. You may need to more pillows than normal.
  • Skip the smog.Smog contains known nasal irritants. Check your smartphone's weather app for news on air quality for the day and try to stay indoors as much as possible on bad days. That goes for days with high pollen counts too.
  • Skip the smoke, too. Secondhand smoke can have just as bad an effect on your throat, sinuses, and nasal passages as the firsthand stuff does.

About the Authors

Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.

Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.

Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.

Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.

About the Consultants

Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Last editorial update on Apr 11, 2019 12:06:49 pm.

UP NEXT

How to Safely Use a Neti Pot

How to Safely Use a Neti Pot

HowStuffWorks takes a look at how to safely use a neti pot.


Related Articles

Other Great Links

Sources

  • National Health Service. "Decongestants." March 3, 2016. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/decongestants/ (Nov. 27, 2018)
  • Healthline. "Home Treatments for Postnasal Drip." https://www.healthline.com/health/postnasal-drip#outlook (Nov. 27, 2018)
  • HealthLink British Colombia. "Treating a Sore Throat Caused by Postnasal Drip." June 18, 2018. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/tv6576 (Nov. 27, 2018)
  • Lin, Steven. "Post Nasal Drip Bad Breath: Causes and Effective Remedies." https://www.drstevenlin.com/postnasal-drip-bad-breath/ (Nov. 27, 2018)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Water: How much should you drink every day?" Sept. 6, 2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256 (Nov. 27, 2018)
  • O'Connor, Anahad. "The Claim: Gargling With Salt Water Can Ease Cold Symptoms." New York Times. Sep. 28, 2010. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/health/28real.html?ref=health (Nov. 27, 2018)
  • Shute, Nancy. "Stuffy Nose or Sinus Problems? Here's a Fix." U.S News & World Report. Nov. 29, 2007. https://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2007/11/29/stuffy-nose-or-sinus-problems-heres-a-fix (Nov. 27, 2018)