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Post nasal drip and cough can irritate the throat, disrupt sleep and generally make the sufferer feel miserable. Frequently, post nasal drip is the cause of a persistent cough as mucus drains from the sinuses and adheres to the back of the throat. The cough reflex is the body’s attempt to dislodge this mucus, but more often, it serves only to further irritate the throat.
Mucus is produced by the sinuses to help regulate air moisture and to trap particles such as dust, preventing them from entering the lungs. Normally, relatively small amounts of mucus are produced and go unnoticed. When the sinuses become sufficiently irritated, though, they will overproduce, and the excess can lead to post nasal drip.
When the sinuses overproduce, excess mucus drains from the sinuses, either flowing out of the nostrils or down the back of the throat. Mucus clinging to the back of the throat will cause irritation and discomfort. A sore or scratchy throat is often responsible for coughing. The coughing can cause further irritation and distress, potentially leading to infection.
Irritants in the air such as allergens, dust or smoke can cause the sinuses to increase mucus production. Colds and flu and even spicy foods can produce similar results. Pregnancy and shifts in hormone levels also can cause post nasal drip and cough.
Combating these problems will depend largely on the source of the irritation, but some treatments work well regardless of the source. Drinking plenty of water will replenish fluids lost to sinus secretions while helping to wash the throat clear of mucus. Gargling with saltwater also is effective for removing mucus and helps to fight infection. Cough drops or hard candies will help to coat the throat and protect it from further irritation.
Dairy products should be avoided by people who are experiencing post nasal drip and cough. Milk will cause the mucus to thicken. Thicker mucus will not drain as easily, increasing sinus pain and pressure and making it considerably more difficult to dislodge from the throat.
If an allergic reaction is responsible for post nasal drip and a cough, an over-the-counter antihistamine will help relieve symptoms. Decongestants also might be helpful to reduce swelling in the sinuses, and of course, avoiding the irritants that are responsible should provide immediate relief. With the reduction of sinus swelling and drainage, the post nasal drip slows and stops, easing the cough as well.