Mucus is an important substance that the nose and throat produce to lubricate nasal passages and trap and destroy foreign substances, such as allergens, bacteria and viruses. However, excess mucus may build up or thicken due to sinusitis, allergies or colds, becoming difficult to remove. Postnasal drip, or drainage, occurs when excess mucus runs down the back of the throat. Drainage may cause irritation in the throat, coughing or the urge to clear the throat to remove the mucus. Drainage is typically worse at night or in the morning, but you can usually prevent or relieve it easily.
Use a humidifier to moisten the air in your bedroom overnight. Moisture aids in thinning mucus.
Sleep with your pillows propped up or use an elevated contour pillow to keep drainage from running down the back of your throat.
Hydrate yourself by drinking water and other fluids throughout the day. Proper hydration helps keep mucus thin so that it drains more easily.
Use over-the-counter saline nasal spray or nasal irrigation (for example, a nasal rinse kit or neti pot) by following the package instructions. Spraying or rinsing nasal passages can help remove excess mucus or irritants that contribute to drainage. Medline Plus cautions you not to use saline nasal sprays more often than three days on and three days off unless directed by your doctor.
Take an over-the-counter expectorant (for example, guaifenesin) to thin mucus, or take an antihistamine or decongestant to reduce the amount of mucus produced. Your doctor can recommend an appropriate over-the-counter medication for you. Keep in mind that some over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants have side effects, such as drowsiness, or may interact with other medications you are taking.
Contact your doctor if the drainage is yellow or green, especially if it is accompanied by sinus pain or fever. This coloring may signal a viral infection, such as a cold, or a bacterial infection. Antibiotics can treat bacterial infections only, and your doctor can prescribe or recommend other treatment options to relieve viral infection symptoms.