Postnasal drip (catarrh )


IMPORTANT The information provided is of a general nature and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you think you may suffer from an allergic or other disease that requires attention, you should discuss it with your family doctor. The content of the information articles and all illustrations on this website remains the intellectual property of Dr Raymond Mullins and cannot be reproduced without written permission.

Postnasal drip tends to annoy people under one of two circumstances; when there is lots of it, or when it is think and dry.


The diagnosis determines the management. If there is lots of mucus, the main causes are allergy, infection and sometimes non allergic rhinitis, as discussed in separate articles. But one very common reason is dry, thick mucus.

Dryness increases with age, dehydration (most people do not drink enough water), dry inland climates, air conditioning, winter heating and some medicines. Dry mucus is irritating, so the tendency is to clear the throat. But this irritates the throat even more as the tissue bangs together. So the irritation becomes self-perpetuating, where every clearance irritates the throat and sets up the desire to do it again, and again...

This is called “habit clearance” of the throat.

What to try

  1. Start with nasal saline/salt water sprays from the chemist. Use them a few times/day to thin mucus and soothe the throat.

  2. Lubricants containing sesame oil are another option. eg Nozoil, or Fess nasal gel.

  3. Ensure you are drinking enough water, say 5-6 glasses/day (unless you have a medical reason to not do so).

  4. Don’t drink too much coffee/tea/cola- caffeine can be dehydrating

  5. Try to swallow rather than clear the throat.

  6. And if you have habit throat clearance, get people around you to hassle you to stop!

But  if this does not work, see your doctor to investigate whether allergy, infection or another problem might be the cause.

Last reviewed 29 May 2020