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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : I get a lot of mucus in my throat. I have to keep spitting it out. Lunch and dinnertime are the worst. What causes this? Can it be treated?
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The Trusted Source
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David M. Vernick, M.D. is assistant professor of otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Otology and Laryngology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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September 28, 2011
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A:

You can get mucous in the throat from:

  • Nasal problems
  • Sinus infections
  • Swallowing disorder
  • Acid reflux (GERD)

Also some people produce excess saliva or can’t swallow normally. This excess saliva can result in mucous collecting in the throat.

Mucous that drains backward from the nose is called postnasal drip. It can be caused by allergies (hay fever) or a viral infection, such as the common cold. Some people develop postnasal drip without having allergies or an infection. This is called vasomotor rhinitis.

People with sinus infections produce a lot mucous inside the sinus. This mucous can drip down and collect in the throat.

Normally, we are constantly swallowing saliva and small amounts of mucous. If you have a swallowing disorder, saliva and mucous will stay in the mouth and throat rather than moving down into the esophagus.

Acid reflux up to the throat can stimulate mucous production.

You can treat allergic and vasomotor rhinitis with:

  • Nasal irrigations
  • Inhaled steroid nasal sprays
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Or any combination of the above

Sinus infections can often be cured with the same treatments used for rhinitis. Persistent sinus infections may need antibiotics

GERD usually gets better with dietary measures, not lying down after eating and, acid-suppressive therapy. You can also elevate the head of the bed to decrease acid reflux and mucous in the throat.

Treatment of swallowing disorders may include special instructions on head position with swallowing and dietary changes.

To find out what the problem is, visit your doctor to review the above possibilities. After examining you, your doctor may also suggest x-rays to check out your sinuses or swallowing process.

Once there is a diagnosis, treatment is usually successful.

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