Postnasal Drip

Postnasal drip can be uncomfortable and frustrating, and it is a common cause of symptoms such as cough, sore throat, and hoarseness. While many may find relief from postnasal drip symptoms with over-the-counter remedies, postnasal drip that is chronic or long-lasting could be caused by a condition that requires attention from a Board-Certified Otolaryngologist (ENT). Serving patients from Houston, The Woodlands, and surrounding communities, fellowship-trained Rhinologist Dr. Shawn Allen can properly diagnose the cause of postnasal drip and provide effective treatment.

African American man blowing his nose outside

What is Postnasal Drip?

Clear nasal drip, often referred to as postnasal drip, occurs when excessive mucus accumulates in the nose and drips down into the throat. Mucus is a thin or thick substance that is constantly produced in the lining of the nose and throat. Its key functions are to moisten these areas, humidify breathed air, to trap airborne pathogens and debris such as pollen, and to help fight infection. Normally, mucus flows constantly in a thin layer down the back of the throat before being unconsciously swallowed. When excess mucus is produced or mucus is thicker than normal, it can be noticeable and cause throat irritation, throat clearing, cough, and/or a scratchy or hoarse voice. This is postnasal drip.

40s woman sitting on couch holding her nose

Symptoms of Postnasal Drip

Common symptoms of postnasal drip include:

  • The sensation of mucus draining or sticking to the back of the throat
  • Frequent swallowing
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • A tickle at the back of the throat
  • A throat that feels sore or irritated, scratchy throat
  • The sensation of a lump in the throat
  • Chronic cough
  • A raspy or gurgling voice
  • Hoarseness
  • Trusetd Source Checkbox Trusted Source Post Nasal Drip American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Go to Source Bad breath

Causes of Chronic Nasal Drip

Various conditions can cause chronic nasal drip. Common causes of postnasal drip include:

  • Deviated septum
  • Sinus infections
  • Chronic sinusitis (with or without polyps)
  • Allergic rhinitis, including both airborne and food allergies
  • Bacterial or viral Infection
  • Pregnancy
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or acid reflux
  • Climate changes
  • Dry air
  • Spicy foods
  • Medications including birth control and some blood pressure Trusetd Source Checkbox Trusted Source Postnasal Drip Cleveland Clinic Go to Source medications
  • Rarely, postnasal drip may reflect underlying CSF leak into the nasal cavities

Postnasal Drip Treatment

Treatment of clear nasal drip is dependent upon the cause of the condition.

Deviated Septum

The nasal septum is made up of bone and cartilage with overlying mucosa and divides the two nasal cavities. When the septum is significantly deviated (crooked), Dr. Allen can perform a septoplasty to straighten and correct the shape of the septum restoring normal airflow and function when needed.
Learn More About Septoplasty

Sinus Infection

Treatment of sinus infections may include decongestants, antihistamines, nasal saline irrigation, steroid nasal sprays, antibiotics, steroids, and other medications. In cases where chronic sinusitis does not respond to medications, Dr. Allen may perform surgery. Surgical treatment of chronic sinusitis may include septoplasty as well as:

Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

During endoscopic sinus surgery, Dr. Allen is able to enlarge the sinus openings, clear nasal obstructions such as polyps, and create a more favorable environment for the application of topical sinus medications.
Learn More About Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

In-Office Balloon Sinuplasty

This in-office procedure is performed to dilate the sinuses, allowing Dr. Allen to rinse the sinuses and clear them of debris while improving their drainage and function.
Learn More About In-Office Balloon Sinuplasty

Inferior Turbinate Reduction

Turbinates are structures inside the nasal passages that serve to cleanse, warm, and humidify air breathed through the nose. When enlarged turbinates cause nasal obstruction or chronic congestion, inferior turbinate reduction (turbinoplasty) can significantly improve nasal airflow.
Learn More About Inferior Turbinate Reduction


In cases where postnasal drip is caused by allergies, treatment may include allergy pills, allergy shots or drops (immunotherapy), antihistamine nasal sprays, decongestants, and/or nasal or oral steroids.


When postnasal drip is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are prescribed. Additional treatment may include saline nasal irrigation, decongestants, and/or nasal spray. Surgery may be required to clear chronic infections when these medical treatments fail.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the cause of postnasal drip diagnosed?

To diagnose the source of a patient’s postnasal drip, Dr. Allen will perform an examination of the ear, nose, and throat. Nasal endoscopy and CT Imaging may also be utilized to uncover the extent of the problem.

Can I treat postnasal drip at home?

In many cases, relief can be found using over-the-counter and home remedies such as a limited course of decongestants, expectorants such as guaifenesin (to loosen secretions), antihistamines, and nasal irrigation with saline nasal spray, sinus rinse bottle, or a neti pot. Using a humidifier, reducing exposure to allergens, replacing and/or adding HEPA air filters, and aggressive hydration can help further alleviate symptoms of postnasal drip depending upon the underlying cause.

If these treatment options are not successful, or if you develop a fever, wheezing, bloody mucus, or mucus with a foul odor or consistent with infection, schedule a consultation with Dr. Allen. If you experience clear watery drainage that is dependent (worsens when leaning forward) and experience significant headaches, neck stiffness, or lethargy/confusion, this may actually be a CSF leak warranting immediate evaluation in the Emergency Department.

Can I prevent postnasal drip?

If you suffer postnasal drip connected with allergies, there are a few steps you can take to reduce frequency and the severity of your symptoms:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Use a humidifier
  • Reduce your exposure to dust mites by frequently cleaning your home and bedding
  • Dust mite covers over mattresses and pillows
  • Avoid other allergens like pet dander
  • Use a saline nasal spray or rinse to clean and humidify your nasal passages
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake
  • Try the above-mentioned over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines
Dr. Shawn Allen

Contact Dr. Shawn Allen

If you suffer from persistent postnasal drip, Dr. Shawn Allen can diagnose the cause of your condition and provide appropriate treatment. Dr. Allen proudly serves patients from Houston, The Woodlands, and nearby communities. To schedule your consultation with Dr. Allen, please contact us.

1 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. Post Nasal Drip. Available: Accessed January 17, 2023.

2 Cleveland Clinic. Postnasal Drip. Available: Accessed January 17, 2023.

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Dr. Shawn Allen has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.

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