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.