Catarrh: Symptoms, Causes and Management


What is Catarrh?

Catarrh is referred to as the accumulation of mucus in the back of the nose, throat, or sinuses. Catarrh may be referred to sometimes as postnasal drip.

Most times, Catarrh is caused as a result of an intermittent or temporary disease such as an allergy or cold. It usually goes away once the illness is over.

However, some people may develop Catarrh that could last for a very long time, and that continues for months or even years. It is not usually a reason for an alarm, but it can be very disturbing to live with.

What is Mucus?

Mucus is a slimy substance in a fluid-like form produced by the mucus glands in the nose and throat. This mucus helps soften the passages in the nose while trapping remains, viruses, or bacteria one inhales. This mucus helps in the prevention of pathogens from entering the body where an infection could likely happen.

About 1–2 quarters of mucus every day. The mucus produced slides down to the back of the nose and down into the throat.

Most times, people swallow the mucus without even knowing it, and in other cases, the mucus can build up in the throat, nose, or even the sinuses.

Symptoms of Catarrh

Common symptoms of Catarrh may include:

  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Facial pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Headache
  • A feeling of mucus flowing down the throat
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Having problems sleeping
  • Clearing the throat often
  • A blocked nose
  • Making bubbling sounds when speaking
  • An irritable feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GER)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Causes of Catarrh

Some possible causes of Catarrh include:

  • Consumption of spicy foods
  • Sinus infection
  • Hay fever
  • Viruses like the common cold
  • Changes in the weather conditions
  • Nasal polyps
  • Some kinds of medications
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy
  • Hay fever or allergic rhinitis
  • Non-allergic rhinitis

Diagnosis of Catarrh

One who experiences Catarrh for a long period of time may need to see a doctor for a diagnosis.

During a consultation, certain questions will be asked by the doctor about their symptoms the patient experiences so as to get or outline the following possible causes:

  • Nasal polyps
  • Bacterial infections
  • Allergies
  • GER or GERD

The doctor may properly examine the person’s nose or throat with the aid of a small hand-held torch.

Sometimes, an X-ray or endoscopy may be performed to get a closer look at the inside features. An endoscopy is a process that makes use of a thin, flexible tube known as an endoscope to examine the inner body parts.

Treatment of Catarrh

Catarrh is most times a symptom of an underlying condition, and it is usually harmless. However, One may decide to get treated if the Catarrh occurs persistently and it is as well accompanied by pain, discomfort, or sometimes irritation.

Treatment Options for Catarrh

Over-The-Counter (OTC) Treatments

Over-The-Counter (OTC) treatments for Catarrh include:

v Antihistamines to treat allergic causes of Catarrh

v Nasal irrigation

v Pain relievers such as Ibuprofen to ease headaches or facial pain

v Oral drugs that help relieve congestion, e.g., pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) or phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine)

Home Treatments

Home care treatments that could help ease off or relieve one of Catarrh may include:

  • Sleeping on a pillow that is propped up
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Inhalation of steam during hot showers
  • Gargling using warm saltwater
  • Using an indoor humidifier
  • Using a saltwater solution to clean the inside of the nostrils

Prevention of Catarrh

To prevent Catarrh, one should avoid consuming foods and liquids that can irritate the mucous membranes as well as:

« Caffeinated foods and beverages

« Spicy foods

« Alcohol

When GER or GERD is the cause of Catarrh, one should avoid consuming food 2 or 3 hours before going to bed.

Prescribed Medications

If one has long-term Catarrh, medications such as Ipratropium (Atrovent) or beclomethasone (Beconase) and triamcinolone (Nasacort) may be recommended by a doctor.

A nasal spray such as Atrovent may as well be recommended that helps reduce the amount of mucus produced by the body system. Steroid sprays such as Beconase and Nasacort can also help relieve the symptoms of chronic Catarrh.

When to See a Doctor

One should visit the clinic to see a doctor if he or she experiences chronic Catarrh that is continuous for several months or more or if the Catarrh interferes and disturbs one’s daily routine.

One should also see a doctor if Catarrh is associated with any of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in the mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Foul-smelling mucus
  • Inexplicable high fever

These signs can be an indication of an infection or condition that needs urgent medical treatment.

There are several likely causes of Catarrh. Most times, this symptom comes and goes once a person recovers from a disease that resulted in the condition. However, Catarrh can sometimes be long-term. That is, it could last for several months or even years.

In conclusion, Catarrh is not a dangerous condition. However, it can be very perturbing. Taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications and using home treatments may provide some relief from the symptoms. However, prescription-strength medications may be important in cases of long-term Catarrh that interferes with a person’s everyday life.


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