DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have the worst case of postnasal drip, and it’s driving me crazy. I have a neverending “ahem, ahem, ahem” throat-clearing. Phlegm is constantly in the back of my throat. Sometimes I clear my throat a thousand times a day. Two-thirds of my garbage is used tissues. What can be done? — J.B.
ANSWER: I apologize for condensing your letter. I got the idea, and I believe readers will too.
Three or four conditions account for most postnasal dripping. One is allergies. You’ve seen an allergist, and the only allergic reaction you demonstrated was to dust mites. Can you leave your home for a week or so — visit a relative? If dust mites are the cause, your symptoms should subside in a new environment.
Vasomotor rhinitis is second on the list of drip causes. It’s a more-or-less permanent dilation of blood vessels in the nose, and those dilated vessels leak fluid. Throat-clearing is part of the picture.
Sinusitis is another important cause. An infected sinus pours out thick mucus that drips into the back of the throat. Chronic sinusitis is best left to the treatment of an ear, nose and throat doctor. Nasal polyps provoke mucus production and dripping. An ENT doctor is equipped to deal with them, should they be found.
Medicines — beta blockers, Catapres for high blood pressure, aspirin and NSAIDs — are examples of drugs that cause the nose to leak fluid down into the throat.
Let me provide some general treatments that help most of these causes. You must stop clearing your throat. Sucking on throat lozenges or frequently sipping from a cup of hot tea with some honey in it will clear mucus from your throat and stop the irritation that throat-clearing causes.
Flush your nose with a saltwater solution three times a day, one of those times being right before bedtime. You make the solution by adding one teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of baking soda to a quart of boiled water. Add the ingredients when the water is still hot. When the water cools, lean over a sink and flush each nostril gently with a bulb syringe, obtainable in drugstores.
Cortisone nasal sprays — Nasarel or Rhinocort Aqua — soothe the nasal lining and reduce mucus production. If you still are afflicted after all this, do see an ear, nose and throat doctor.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What ramifications might happen when people share drinks, table food and icecream cones with their dogs? They resume eating, drinking or licking the food after their pets have “sampled” it. How healthy is this? — B.A.
ANSWER: I wouldn’t think of eating food after a family member had sampled it with his or her tongue, teeth or mouth. The thought grosses me out. Every person has a slightly diff erent bacterial population in his mouth, and we cope well only with our own bacteria.
A dog’s mouth, in spite of claims to the contrary, is not cleaner than the mouth of a human. Dog bites often become infected due to the germs in their mouths. People eating food after a dog has sampled it are asking for trouble.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
©2010 North America Synd.