Can Post Nasal Drip Make My Asthma Worse?

What is Post Nasal Drip?

Post nasal drip is the movement of mucus from the nose into the back of the throat. The nose produces mucus even when you are not sick! Mucus in the nose is useful for trapping harmful air particles. Examples of these potentially harmful air particles may include allergens such as pollen or pet dander, disease-causing bacteria and viruses, or irritants such as cigarette smoke. Mucus also helps to moisturize air inhaled through the nose, humidifying it for easier breathing as it travels to the lungs. Used mucus can be expelled from the nose from the front (runny nose) or by dripping down the back of the nose and into the throat (post nasal drip). In healthy individuals, post nasal drip occurs without you noticing it!

What Happens When I Can Feel Post Nasal Drip?

This can mean that the tissues in your nose are producing mucus in excess. Excess mucus production can be due to a wide variety of medical conditions, and can include infection from the common cold or the flu, acute or chronic sinus inflammation (sinusitis), allergies, overactivity of the nerve that controls mucus production, a normal side effect of pregnancy, and exposure to airborne irritants. The excess of this mucus is what you are experiencing dripping down the back of your throat.

How Does Post Nasal Drip Affect My Asthma?

Asthma is an exaggerated sensitivity of the airways in the lungs. When exposed to their triggers, the airways of individuals with asthma swell and constrict, limiting the amount of air that can be exchanged in the lungs. Post nasal drip can be a trigger for an asthma attack, causing cough, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. Sometimes, the inflamed airways can produce additional mucus, further narrowing the space through which air can pass through.

I Have Never Had Asthma Before. Did My Post Nasal Drip Give Me Asthma?

The development of asthma from post nasal drip alone is unlikely. Asthma is usually diagnosed in childhood, though some adults may develop asthma later in life. Post nasal drip, however, is a general irritant to the airways in the lungs and can cause cough regardless of whether or not a person has been diagnosed with asthma. Please consult your primary care or pulmonology provider if you would like to be tested for asthma.

What Can I Do About My Post Nasal Drip?

Treatment of post nasal drip primarily centers on treating its cause. Testing for these potential causes include an allergy test or a CT scan of the sinuses to look for any allergies or sinus inflammation, respectively. During your appointment with an ENT provider, he or she may use a specialized camera called a nasal endoscope to visualize the inside of your nose. If appropriate, certain medications can be prescribed to improve your post nasal drip. These medications may include nasal sprays, antihistamines, antibiotics, and/or oral steroids. Surgery or a number of minimally invasive in-office procedures may also improve your symptoms, including balloon sinuplasty or cryotherapy (freezing) of the nerve that controls mucus production.



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