There may be a link between postnasal drip and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but experts are unsure about the exact mechanism behind this association. However, both can occur at the same time.

The link between postnasal drip and GERD is complex. One theory is that GERD can lead to irritation in the throat due to a backflow of stomach acid entering the esophagus. In turn, this could mean a person experiences a large mucus buildup in the area, leading to a postnasal drip-like sensation. Other symptoms might include inflammation, cough, or difficulty swallowing.

The opposite, where postnatal drip causes GERD, is unlikely. If someone experiences postnatal drip related to GERD, they can discuss concerns with a doctor.

This article looks at the link between postnasal drip and GERD, including other causes and possible treatment options.

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Some experts note a possible link between both postnasal drip and GERD. Postnasal drip occurs due to excessive mucus in the back of the throat. GERD refers to a backflow of the stomach’s contents to the esophagus (windpipe). Sometimes, GERD can cause postnasal drip.

Both can lead to similar symptoms, such as a cough. GERD has associations with upper respiratory symptoms and can co-exist or even mimic postnasal drip. This, and many other factors, may make it difficult for doctors to diagnose which one a person has based on clinical assessment alone.

Still, more research is necessary to determine the link between the two.

If the stomach contents travel back to the esophagus, it can lead to irritation. Due to stomach acid exposure, the nasal passages and sinuses may react by producing excessive mucus that drips into the throat. It can lead to a mucus buildup in the area.

This indicates that GERD can cause symptoms similar to postnasal drip. However, more common causes of postnasal drip include infections and allergies.

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Find out more about both conditions:

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Postnasal drip is more of a symptom than a disease or condition.

Postnasal drip is unlikely to cause GERD. GERD happens when the junction between the esophagus and the stomach — the esophageal sphincter — is weakened, which allows the stomach’s contents to flow up the esophagus.

Swallowing the mucus that builds up in the back of the throat is unlikely to cause damage to the esophageal sphincter. However, swallowing mucus can irritate the throat.

Gastric reflux can occur anytime someone is laying flat and swallowing. This is because the esophageal sphincter will open when swallowing a sludge of mucus, and as the body is horizontal, gastric acid can enter the esophagus.

There are several causes for both postnasal drip and GERD.

Other causes of postnasal drip may include:

Other causes of GERD may include:

Doctors must first determine the underlying cause of GERD, postnasal drip, or both. This will likely involve various tests. If GERD is causing postnasal drip-like symptoms, doctors will likely prioritize treating GERD. This can include:

  • recommending certain lifestyle changes, such as diet modifications or losing weight if necessary
  • certain medications, including proton pump inhibitors such as lansoprazole (Prevacid) and esomeprazole (Nexium)
  • surgical interventions

Learn more about treating GERD.

Some ways a person can relieve postnasal drip include:

  • drinking more water and having low caffeine intake
  • taking mucus-thinning medications, such as guaifenesin (Mucinex)
  • using saline nasal sprays — for example, Ocean

If allergies or infection — which are more likely causes of postnasal drip — cause symptoms, antihistamines or decongestants can help.

Learn more about relieving postnasal drip symptoms.

A person with postnasal drip symptoms related to GERD may benefit from asking a doctor some questions about their condition. These can include:

  • Which treatment can help both GERD and postnasal drip?
  • Is GERD the cause of persistent postnasal drip?
  • Which foods should I avoid if I have postnasal drip due to GERD?
  • Will postnasal drip disappear after resolving GERD?

An association between postnasal drip and GERD exists. However, doctors are still unclear on the exact mechanism behind the association.

Postnasal drip is unlikely to cause GERD, but it can irritate the throat. On the other hand, GERD is a possible cause of mucus buildup in the throat — a key symptom of postnasal drip. Both conditions may have slightly different treatment methods, but understanding what is causing these symptoms is important in providing adequate symptom relief.