Every day, glands in the lining of your nose, throat, airways, stomach, and intestinal tract produce about 1 to 2 quarts of mucus -- a thick, wet substance that moistens these areas and helps trap and destroy foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses before they can get into your body and cause infection. Normally, you don't notice the mucus from your nose because it mixes with saliva and drips harmlessly down the back of your throat to be swallowed gradually and continuously throughout the day.
Only when your body produces more mucus than usual or the mucus is thicker than normal does it become more noticeable. Excess mucus can come out the front of your nose in the form of a runny nose. When the mucus runs down the back of the nose to the throat, it's called postnasal drip.
Q: Atlanta is beautiful in the spring, but my allergies are so bad!
Will moving to the desert make them go away?
A: Ragweed and grass pollens are triggers that are difficult to avoid
almost everywhere in the continental United States during the spring and
Although much of Arizona and New Mexico is arid, most people in the cities,
suburbs, and small towns grow grass for lawns. Plus, the land has been
disturbed by construction and landscaping, so weeds are widespread. Las Vegas,
Deviated septum (abnormal placement of the wall that separates the two nostrils) or another anatomical problem that affects the sinuses
Changing weather fronts, cold temperatures, or excess dryness in the air
Certain foods (for example, spicy foods can trigger mucus flow)
Fumes from chemicals, perfumes, cleaning products, smoke, or other irritants
Sometimes the problem is not that you're producing too much mucus, but rather that it's not being cleared away effectively. Swallowing problems can cause a buildup of liquids in the throat, which can feel like postnasal drip. These problems can occur with age, a blockage, or conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Symptoms of Postnasal Drip
Postnasal drip creates an annoying feeling that makes you want to constantly clear your throat. Because the feeling of the liquid in your throat is irritating and contains inflammatory substances, postnasal drip also can trigger a cough, which often gets worse at night. In fact, postnasal drip is the most common cause of chronic cough. Excess mucus running down your throat may also make you feel hoarse and give you a sore throat.
If the mucus plugs up the Eustachian tube -- the tube that connects the throat to the middle ear -- it can lead to a painful ear infection. When mucus blocks the sinus passages, it can lead to a sinus infection.
Treatments for Postnasal Drip
Treatment for postnasal drip depends on the cause of the problem. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. However, green or yellow mucus is not necessarily proof of a bacterial infection. Colds can also turn the mucus these colors and they are caused by viruses, which don't respond to antibiotics.