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Postnasal drip and hay fever

A postnasal drip results from excess mucus production and is often linked to catarrh or scleroderma. 

This is a common symptom of hay fever, but you may also experience it when the body fights a cold, flu, sinus infection or during pregnancy and eating spicy foods. 

What is a postnasal drip?

A postnasal drip is where excess mucus from the nose and throat glands runs down the back of the throat.  You may feel the need to swallow or clear your throat more often, particularly at night. This can cause throat irritation.

Key postnasal drip symptoms

You may struggle with a number of symptoms if you’re experiencing postnasal drip, which can be difficult if you’re also experiencing hay fever or another allergy. Some of the most common symptoms of postnasal drip are: 

  • Raspy or gurgling speech
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Repeated clearing your throat
  • Frequent swallowing
  • Feeling a blockage in your throat

What causes postnasal drip?

Postnasal drip can have a variety of causes , and usually it’s not a cause for concern. However, if you’re worried about any postnasal drip symptoms, you should always speak to your doctor. 

The most common causes of a postnasal drip are:

  • Allergies to dust mites, animal hair or pollen
  • Colds or flu
  • Sinusitis or sinus infection
  • Pregnancy
  • Some forms of medication e.g., some contraceptive pills or blood pressure medicines
  • Physical deformities of the nose or swelling
  • Low temperatures, change in weather or extreme dryness
  • Spicy food
  • Chemical fumes, such as cleaning products, smoke, aftershave etc.

Can hay fever cause postnasal drip?

Hay fever is a common allergy that can cause postnasal drip. As an allergic reaction to pollen, hay fever can cause itchy eyes, a runny nose, sinus congestion and other symptoms as the body tries to trap pollen particles or remove them from the body. Your body is trying to trap pollen particles and get rid of them from your body.

As part of the immune response to combat pollen, the body can sometimes overproduce mucus, causing a postnasal drip and cough.

Postnasal drip cough

A persistent cough is common with those experiencing postnasal drip  , as the throat needs clearing of excess mucus. Coughing may also temporarily relieve an irritated throat but in the long run can make your throat much sorer. Over-the-counter syrups can help soothe an irritated or inflamed throat especially at night when a  postnasal drip cough can often be at its worst. 

How long does it last?

Postnasal drip and its symptoms can last for weeks or months, depending on your circumstances . However, it should eventually clear up on its own. If you’re struggling with your symptoms or are concerned, you should seek advice from your pharmacist or doctor. 

Postnasal drip treatment

You can usually treat postnasal drip with an over-the-counter nasal spray. More complicated or long-term cases may mean you have to see your doctor for further advice. This may include making changes to your diet or looking at surgical solutions. However, for many people, postnasal drip goes away on its own. 

Antibiotics and nasal saline irrigations can help clear up any underlying sinus or bacterial infections and reduce postnasal drip. 

To prevent postnasal drip, it’s best to avoid triggers and take quick action against colds and flu. Talk to your doctor about which antihistamines, decongestants, or steroid nasal sprays might be an option. If you struggle with hay fever and postnasal drip, you can use our pollen tracker to keep an eye on the pollen count near you.


Can you stop postnasal drip?

It's best to prevent postnasal drip by taking allergy medication or avoiding irritants  . The best way to stop it is to know what’s causing it in the first place. For example, if your postnasal drip is triggered by hay fever, you can try and control the amount of pollen you’re exposed to. If you do struggle with your symptoms, there are plenty of treatment options out there to help.  

Can you have postnasal drip without a runny nose?

Yes, you can. The excess mucus produced by your body can escape through your nostrils, down your throat, or both. A runny nose and postnasal drip could indicate colds, flu, and hay fever. 

What triggers postnasal drip?

Postnasal drip can be triggered by a number of things including spicy food, allergies, pregnancy, flu and the common cold. It’s usually nothing to be worried about but if you’re concerned, speak to your doctor or pharmacist. 


This article has been expertly reviewed by Jin Zhang, Director of Global Medical Affairs at Kimberly-Clark.

The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment

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