Although nasal drainage is a common problem and although annoying, it clears on its own in most cases. Some cases however may be a sign of a more serious infection or medical problem that require medical intervention. Read on to find out more.
What Causes Nasal Drainage
Knowing what causes nasal drainage is the key to effective treatment and prevention of its recurrence in the future. There are many possible causes of nose drainage including:
Common cold and flu: These two viral ailments are known to cause nasal discharge. Although common cold is typically harmless and clears away on its own in most cases, the flu is potentially dangerous especially among children and the elderly.
For both common cold and the flu, the body responds by producing more mucus to trap the causative virus before it can enter your lungs and other parts of the body. When some of the mucus produced flows out through your nose, you end up with the runny nose that is typical to these two conditions.
Allergies: If you are allergic to a certain substance(s), you may also experience nasal drainage after exposure to it through touch or inhalation. Such substances are scientifically referred to as allergens. Common culprits include pet dander, grass, pollen, dust, cockroach debris and dust mites among others. Your body responds by producing more mucus to flush out the allergens. In addition to nose discharge drainage, you may experience other symptoms such as nasal itching and swelling.
Sinusitis: This is a condition characterized by the inflammation or swelling of the sinuses, the air-filled cavities in your skull found around your forehead, eyes, and cheekbone. When inflamed, sinuses limit flow of air and fluids, resulting in a buildup of mucus and breathing difficulties. The mucus trapped in as a result of sinusitis is often felt draining out of your nose. It is typically thick and may have a slightly yellow or green hue.
Drastic weather or temperature changes: Exposure to changing weather condition e.g. hot or cold air often causes a clear watery discharge (a non-allergic condition known as vasomotor rhinitis). The problem is especially common among the elderly. Vasomotor rhinitis can also be triggered by exposure to strong odors and scents e.g. perfumes.
Other potential nasal drainage causes are:
- Presence of foreign bodies in the nose
- Deviated septum (the cartilage and bone membrane that separate the two nostrils)
- Chicken pox
- Drug abuse
- Head injury (this is an emergency that requires urgent medical attention)
- Taking hot and spicy foods
Nasal Drainage Symptoms
Nasal drainage symptoms vary widely depending on the underlying ailment. Having a runny nose is the most obvious symptom but some patients may as well experience coughing, post nasal drip (drainage of mucus into the throat), fever, and headaches to name but a few. Some people also experience blood-stained mucus due to excessive blowing of the nose.
Nasal Drainage Causing Cough
Nasal discharge is often accompanied by coughing which is triggered by the flow of mucus into the throat, a condition known as post-nasal drip in medical circles. We have talked more about post nasal drip in a subsequent section.
Yellow Nasal Drainage
The mucus coming out of the nose is in most cases clear and thin but it may as well have a yellow or green hue to it. Thick, yellow nasal discharge is in most cases a sign of bacterial infection. Antibiotics are usually required to treat the condition.
Green Nasal Drainage
A thick, green discharge from the nose is also often a sign of bacterial infection but it may as well indicate the presence of a foreign object in the nose. This is especially likely if the discharge is one sided and has an offensive smell.
Constant Nasal Drainage , Excessive, Purulent, Yellow, Green
The lining of the nose has a mucus membrane that contains mucus secreting glands. These glands secrete mucus continuously throughout the day; approximately 1 to 2 quarts of mucus are secreted by nasal and throat glands combined everyday according to The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.
Mucus comprises of water, proteins and antibodies and serves important purposes including: Keeping the nasal lining moist which in turn helps to trap bacteria, dust and other foreign particles floating in the air before they reach your lungs.
In some instances, such as when you have a cold or an allergy, the production of mucus increase and manifests in a flow of mucus out of your nose. This outward flow of mucus through your nose is commonly described as runny nose but some people also refer to it as nasal drainage or nasal discharge.
Constant Nasal Drainage
You may experience nasal drainage constantly throughout the year if you live or work in an environment that continuously exposes you to environmental and indoor allergens. This could for example, happen if you work in a dusty, or earth-floored environment, or work with pets.
Excessive Nasal Drainage
Excessive nose discharge warrants the attention of your doctor. This is especially true of nasal discharge that doesn’t seem to respond to home care measures described in a subsequent section of this article, or stay on for more than 10 days.
Purulent Nasal Drainage
Purulent nose discharge, that is pus-filled mucus, is as well a sign of infection and warrants medical attention. Antibiotics are needed for treatment of such a case.
Post Nasal Drainage
As we have already mentioned, mucus production is an essential part of upper respiratory tract health as it wards off dust, bacteria, viruses and other potentially harmful objects. Post nasal drainage. In normal circumstances, mucus flows down the throat throughout the day without you even noticing it.
Post nasal drainage, more commonly referred to as post-nasal drip, is that feeling of mucus accumulating in your throat as a result of increased and/or increasingly thick mucus secretion in the mucus glands found in your nasal lining. This gives you the urge to keep clearing your throat and sometimes causes frequent cough.
Post nasal drip is usually triggered by irritation by microorganisms (bacteria and viruses and, in rare cases, fungi), presence of foreign objects in your nose, pregnancy, and eating spicy foods among the many causes mentioned previously.
Throat muscle problems and swallowing disorders can as well trigger post-nasal drips according to The American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery.
Among the problems associated with post nasal drainage are discomfort, sore throat, coughing, and frequent urge to clear the throat. In addition, post-nasal drip excess mucus can cause ear problems. This happens when the excess mucus blocks the Eustachian tube – the tube that connect the nose with the ear – which then causes ear pain and/or discomfort and sometimes infection.
Nasal Drainage in Throat Herbal Remedy
While the following home remedy can have minimal effects on the underlying problem, it can help to clear the mucus from the throat and nose and offer relief from nasal drainage in throat symptoms:
- Warm water
- Neti-pot or an empty nasal spray bottle
- Tea kettle
- Tea bags
- Prepare a saline nasal solution by mixing ¼ teaspoon of salt with 1 cup of lukewarm water
- Pour the solution into a Neti-pot. Place the spout of the Neti-pot into one side of the nose while leaning over a sink, allow the solution to flow into the nasal passages while blocking the other nostril. Repeat the procedure for the next nostril.
- Once the solution has drained out of the nostrils, blow gently on a tissue.
- Next, prepare a cup of tea by placing a tea bag in boiling water and
- Add honey to sweeten the tea.
- Squeeze a couple lemon slices into the tea and you are good to go.
- Drink the tea several times a day to help loosen mucus and thus facilitate its blowing out and coughing up from the throat.
How to Stop Nasal Drainage or Ways to Clear Nasal Drainage
Although nasal discharge clears away in a few days for the majority of the cases, you may want to alleviate the symptoms and discomfort by trying one or more of the following tips on how to stop nasal drainage:
- Use saline nasal spray or drops. These are available over-the-counter but you can as well make your own by adding a ¼ teaspoon of salt to a cup of lukewarm water (you may want to add a pinch of baking soda to the mixture).
- Get over-the-counter nasal decongestants and use it as directed for not more than three days.
- Run a humidifier in your house to increase air moisture, but avoid adding to much moisture in your house. It is also advisable to clean the vaporizer each and every day with bleach or Lysol®
- Sleep with your head raised up. Stuff pillows beneath your mattress or place a wooden block beneath the front legs of your bed. If sleeping on the couch, stuff more pillows to elevate your head.
- Drink plenty of fluids including tea (green tea is especially helpful), broth, water, etc. but stay away from caffeinated and sugary fluids.
- If allergies are suspected, start by identifying the offending allergen and eliminate and then take over-the-counter antihistamine medications.
- Stop smoking if you do – I know that is hard for most people but it helps to reduce nasal irritation and inflammation.
- For common cold and flu, get plenty of rest and take lots of fluids.
Nasal Drainage Medicine
Nasal discharge causative factor can often be identified by examining the patient. The color of discharge coupled with the underlying circumstances are taken into account after which the necessary medication is administered or prescribed. Here are some of the most common over-the-counter and prescription nasal drainage medicines:
Antihistamines : Antihistamines are medications used to treat nose discharge caused by allergies. Benadryl is one of the most common antihistamine medications. Because most antihistamines can make you dizzy, it is generally recommended that you avoid driving or operation of heavy machinery while taking antihistamines.
Check with the instructions provided carefully for specific safe use practices for your particular medicine. Antihistamines may also react with other medications especially muscle relaxers, sedatives, and sleeping pills. Talk to your doctor before taking antihistamines if you are using any of these medications.
Cough and cold medicines: Cough and cold medicine can as well be obtained over-the-counter and on prescription. Antiviral medications are usually prescribed for severe cases of flu to help lessen the time it take to heal.
Antibiotics : Antibiotics are typically used when sinus infection is suspected. It is absolutely critical that you take the whole round of antibiotics as prescribed.
Further Recommended Reading on Drainage of Sinus
- Drainage of the Sinus Symptoms, Chronic, Constant Draining with a Cough
- Drainage of Sinus Sore Throat, Symptoms, Infection and Treatment
- How to Stop a Draining Sinus, Get Rid of this Problem, Surgery, Medicines
- Drainage in the Sinus Causes, Green, Yellow, Bloody and Drainage in Ear