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Treating a Sore Throat Caused by Postnasal Drip - Topic Overview

What is postnasal drip?

Your nose and throat make mucus all the time. This mucus keeps your nose and throat moist, and it clears away bacteria and other things that can cause infections and allergies. Most of the time, this mucus is swallowed and you don't even notice it. But when you have a cold, congestion, or allergies, the amount of mucus can increase, build up, and thicken.

The feeling of this mucus draining down the back of your throat is postnasal drip. It often causes a sore throat, coughing, and problems swallowing.

See a picture of postnasal drip camera.gif.

What causes it?

The increase in mucus that leads to postnasal drip can be caused by a cold, flu, allergies, sinus infections, or hormonal changes.

How can you care for a sore throat caused by postnasal drip?

  • Gargle with warm salt water to help get rid of throat soreness. Stir 1 tsp (5 g) of salt into 8 fl oz (240 mL) of lukewarm water. Gargle as often as you like—the more often, the better.
  • Drink more fluids to soothe a sore throat. Honey and lemon in weak tea may help. (Do not give honey to children younger than 1 year.)
  • Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin to help the pain go away. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome.

Clean the inside of the nose with a saltwater solution. This may help reduce postnasal drip. You can purchase a saline solution at your drugstore, or you can make your own at home.

  • Mix ½ tsp (2.5 g) salt and ½ tsp (2.5 g) baking soda in 8 fl oz (240 mL) of distilled water (too much salt dries out nasal membranes). If you use tap water, boil it first to sterilize it, and then let it cool until it is lukewarm.
  • Place the solution in a clean bottle with a dropper (available at drugstores). Use as needed. Make a fresh solution every 3 days.
  • Insert drops while lying on a bed. The person should be on his or her back and hang the head over the side of the bed. This helps the drops get farther back. To avoid reinfection, try to avoid touching the dropper to the nose.
  • If the bottle does not have a dropper, the solution can be snuffed from the palm of the hand, one nostril at a time.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: October 30, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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