The sinuses are hollow air pockets located the bones of your face that lead to your nasal passages. The mucus produced by the sinuses is swept out by the cilia, or tiny hairs, lining the sinus passages into your nose and throat. A swelling of the sinus membranes can cause abnormally thick mucus, which slows down the movement of cilia and causes the excess mucus to pool in the back of your nose and drip down your throat, resulting in sinus drainage, also called post-nasal drip.
Before you take medicine for post nasal drip, you need to know what’s causing it. If the cause is a viral infection, such as the common cold, you can take a decongestant, which reduces post nasal drip by drying up mucus and constricting blood vessels in your nasal passages. It’s not recommended to take decongestants for longer than three to four days as prolonged use can actually worsen symptoms.
If the cause is a bacterial infection, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics.
If it’s allergies, you can take an antihistamine. Some antihistamines make you groggy without doing much to treat the underlying problem, but there are non-sedating antihistamines available by prescription.
Some causes of post nasal drip, such as colds and sinus infections, often go away on their own without medication. There are several things you can do at home to alleviate and prevent post nasal drip.
Stay hydrated. Drinking lots of fluids help keeps the mucus lining moist and can help thin excess mucus. Hot herbal teas with lemon and honey are a good choice, and make sure to avoid caffeine.
Do a salt water gargle with 1/2 tsp. salt dissolved in 8 oz. of warm water.
Irrigate the nasal passages. Combine 1/2 tsp. salt with 8 oz. warm water, draw the water into an infant aspirator, tilt your head back, and breathe in to suck the water into your nostril. You can also use a Neti pot for this. Practicing regular nasal irrigation can help keep your sinuses functioning properly.
Use your humidifier. Moisture in the air in the dry winter months helps moisten your nasal passages and prevent mucus from getting so thick you begin to notice it.
Remember to get a lot of rest. This will help you overcome to underlying cause of the post nasal drip, such as an infection.
Sinus massage can help break up excess mucus build-up in the sinus passages. Using your fingers, gently rub and tap the areas over your sinuses-your lower forehead, upper cheeks, and sides of your nose).
Some doctors recommend avoiding too much dairy, as dairy might encourage excess mucus production. If you find that avoiding dairy gets rid of your excess mucus entirely, you could have a dairy allergy and should be evaluated by a doctor.