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Post Nasal Drip: First Cause of Unexplained Chronic Cough

Long-term, troublesome cough is one of the most frequent reasons why people visit a physician. 10-38% of patients, contacting a doctor, suffer from chronic cough of unexplained etiology. Post nasal drip, alone or in combination with other diseases, is the most widespread cause of chronic cough. It’s diagnosed in 54% of cases. Let’s throw more light on this condition.

The term of upper airway cough syndrome is referred to the inflammatory processes in the upper respiratory tract (nasal cavity and sinuses) which lead to the condition when nasal secretion drips down the back wall of the pharynx into the bronchial tree where it triggers the cough reflex mechanically. The most frequent underlying conditions, evoking post nasal drip, are chronic rhinitis (mainly the allergic one) and chronic sinusitis. Nasal septum distortion may also cause the syndrome.

Post Nasal Drip: Symptoms and Diagnostics

  • Symptoms are similar to those, occurring along with common cold:
  • Stuffy nose
  • Accumulation of mucus in the back of the nasal cavity and its drip
  • Repeated coughing
  • Cough with phlegm
  • Impaired breathing through the nose
  • Wheeze
  • Headache and painful sinuses (additionally)

The symptoms of upper airway cough syndrome usually reveal differently at different times of the day and night. During night sleep the body stays in the horizontal position, and mucus drips into human pharynx, irritates the reflex zones and causes cough. During the day, when you are in the vertical position, the mechanism is the same, however, the dripped mucus is swallowed and almost doesn’t get on the epiglottis or vocal cords, where the cough reflex originates.

Doctors often take post nasal drip for chronic bronchitis since its symptoms aren’t specific. That’s why the condition requires thorough diagnostics which is a combination of:

  • The medical or case history (the history of the disease)
  • Characteristic complaints (sensation of the secretion, dripping down the back of the pharynx)
  • Medical examination
  • X-ray or computer tomography results

Post Nasal Drip: Treatment

To get rid of upper airway cough syndrome, an underlying condition must be treated first of all.

  • In patients with allergic rhinitis, nasal corticosteroids are applied. However, it’s not always possible to achieve a steady effect with these medications. That’s why this method is recommended to be used periodically, in courses, during the periods, when the drip symptoms reveal at their fullest.
  • In case of antihistamines and anti-inflammatory treatments are used.
  • Sometimes long-term antibiotic therapy is prescribed or surgery is recommended (in patients with the distorted nasal septum).

If constant cough of unexplained nature clouds your life, don’t delay your visit to a doctor. Professional diagnostics will exclude the possibility of severe lung conditions. In case of upper airway cough syndrome, timely treatment will relieve the tormenting symptoms and improve the way you feel generally.

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