WHAT CAUSES ABNORMAL SECRETIONS?

Thin secretions:

Increased thin clear secretions can be due to colds and flu, allergies, cold temperatures, bright lights, certain foods/spices, pregnancy, and other hormonal changes. Various drugs (including birth control pills and high blood pressure medications) and structural abnormalities can also produce increased secretions. These abnormalities might include a deviated or irregular nasal septum (the cartilage and bony dividing wall that separates the two nostrils).

Thick secretions:

Increased thick secretions in the winter often result from dryness in heated buildings and homes. They can also result from sinus or nose infections and allergies, especially to foods such as dairy products. If thin secretions become thick, and turn green or yellow, it is likely that a bacterial sinus infection is developing. In children, thick secretions from one side of the nose can mean that something is stuck in the nose such as a bean, wadded paper, or piece of toy. If these symptoms are observed, seek a physician for examination.

HOW IS SWALLOWING AFFECTED?

Swallowing problems may result in accumulation of solids or liquids in the throat that may complicate or feel like post-nasal drip. When the nerves and muscles in the mouth, throat, and food passage (esophagus) aren’t interacting properly, overflow secretions can spill into the voice box (larynx) and breathing passages (trachea and bronchi), causing hoarseness, throat clearing, or coughing.

Several factors contribute to swallowing problems:

  • With age, swallowing muscles often lose strength and coordination, making it difficult for even normal secretions to pass smoothly into the stomach.
  • During sleep, swallowing occurs much less frequently, and secretions may gather. Coughing and vigorous throat clearing are often needed upon waking.
  • When nervous or under stress, throat muscles can trigger spasms that make it feel as if there is a lump in the throat. Frequent throat clearing, which usually produces little or no mucus, can make the problem worse by increasing irritation.
  • Growths or swelling in the food passage can slow or prevent the movement of liquids and/or solids.

Swallowing problems may also be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is a backup of stomach contents and acid into the esophagus or throat. Heartburn, indigestion, and sore throat are common symptoms. GERD may be aggravated by lying down, especially following eating. Hiatal hernia, a pouch-like tissue mass where the esophagus meets the stomach, often contributes to the reflux.

HOW IS THE THROAT AFFECTED?

Post-nasal drip often leads to a sore, irritated throat. Although there is usually no infection, the tonsils and other tissues in the throat may swell. This can cause discomfort or a feeling that there is a lump in the throat. Successful treatment of the post-nasal drip will usually clear up these throat symptoms.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

A correct diagnosis requires a detailed ear, nose, and throat exam, and possibly laboratory, endoscopic (procedures that use a tube to look inside the body), and x-ray studies. Treatment varies according to the following causes:

  • Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. These drugs may only provide temporary relief. In cases of chronic sinusitis, surgery to open the blocked sinuses may be required.
  • Allergies are managed by avoiding the causes. Antihistamines and decongestants, cromolyn and steroid (cortisone type) nasal sprays, and other forms of steroids may offer relief. Immunotherapy, either by shots or sublingual (under the tongue drops) may also be helpful. However, some older, sedating antihistamines may dry and thicken post-nasal secretions even more; newer nonsedating antihistamines, available by prescription only, do not have this effect. Decongestants can aggravate high blood pressure, heart, and thyroid disease. Steroid sprays may be used safely under medical supervision. Oral and injectable steroids rarely produce serious complications in short-term use. Because significant side-effects can occur, steroids must be monitored carefully when used for more than one week.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux is treated by elevating the head of the bed six to eight inches, avoiding foods and beverages for two to three hours before bedtime, and eliminating alcohol and caffeine from the daily diet. Antacids such as Maalox®, Mylanta®, Gaviscon®, and drugs that block stomach acid production such as Zantac®, Tagamet®, or Pepcid®) may be prescribed. If these are not successful, stronger medications can be prescribed. Trial treatments are usually suggested before x-rays and other diagnostic studies are performed.

General measures that allow mucus secretions to pass more easily may be recommended when it is not possible to determine the cause. Many people, especially older persons, need more fluids to thin out secretions. Drinking more water, eliminating caffeine, and avoiding diuretics (medications that increase urination) will help. Mucous-thinning agents such as guaifenesin (Humibid®, Robitussin®) may also thin secretions. Nasal irrigations may alleviate thickened secretions. These can be performed two to four times a day either with a nasal douche device or a Water Pik® with a nasal irrigation nozzle. Warm water with baking soda or salt (½ to 1 tsp. to the pint) or Alkalol®, a nonprescription irrigating solution (full strength or diluted by half warm water), may be helpful. Finally, use of simple saline (salt) nonprescription nasal sprays (e.g., Ocean®, Ayr®, or Nasal®) to moisten the nose is often very beneficial.

When should you call for help?

Give an epinephrine shot if:

  • You think you are having a severe allergic reaction.
  • You have symptoms in more than one body area, such as mild nausea and an itchy mouth.

After giving an epinephrine shot call 911, even if you feel better.

Call 911 if:

  • You have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
    • Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over your body.
    • Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness). Or you may feel very lightheaded or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
  • You have been given an epinephrine shot, even if you feel better.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Belly pain, nausea, or vomiting.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your allergies get worse.
  • You need help controlling your allergies.
  • You have questions about allergy testing.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Cómo manejar las alergias: Instrucciones de cuidado – [Managing Your Allergies: Care Instructions]

Instrucciones de cuidado

Manejar las alergias es una parte importante de mantenerse saludable. Su médico le ayudará a encontrar lo que puede estar provocando las alergias. Las causas comunes de los síntomas de alergia son el polvo y los ácaros del polvo que se encuentran en el hogar, la caspa de los animales, el moho y el polen.

Tan pronto como sepa qué desencadena los síntomas, trate de reducir su exposición a esos desencadenantes. Esto puede ayudar a prevenir los síntomas de alergia, asma y otros problemas de salud.

Pregúntele a su médico sobre los medicamentos antialérgicos o la inmunoterapia. Estos tratamientos pueden ayudar a reducir o a prevenir los síntomas alérgicos.

La atención de seguimiento es una parte clave de su tratamiento y seguridad. Asegúrese de hacer y acudir a todas las citas, y llame a su médico si está teniendo problemas. También es una buena idea saber los resultados de sus exámenes y mantener una lista de los medicamentos que toma.

¿Cómo puede cuidarse en el hogar?

  • Si piensa que el polvo o los ácaros del polvo son la causa de sus alergias:
    • Lave las sábanas, las fundas de las almohadas y demás ropa de cama con agua caliente todas las semanas.
    • Use fundas herméticas y a prueba de polvo para almohadas, edredones y colchones. Evite los cobertores de plástico, porque suelen rasgarse rápidamente y no “respiran”. Lávelos de acuerdo con las instrucciones.
    • Quite las mantas y las almohadas adicionales que no necesite.
    • Use mantas que se puedan lavar a máquina.
    • No use humidificadores. Pueden ayudar a que los ácaros del polvo vivan más tiempo.
  • Use el acondicionador de aire. Cambie o limpie todos los filtros una vez al mes. Mantenga las ventanas cerradas. Use filtros de aire de alto rendimiento. No use ventiladores de ventana ni de ático, que llenan el aire de polvo.
  • Si es alérgico a la caspa de los animales, no deje que las mascotas entren a la casa o, por lo menos, no deje que entren en su habitación. Las alfombras viejas y los muebles tapizados con tela pueden albergar mucha caspa de animales. Tal vez tenga que reemplazarlos.
  • Busque rastros de cucarachas. Use cebos para cucarachas para eliminarlas. Luego limpie bien toda la casa.
  • Si es alérgico al moho, no tenga plantas de interior porque puede crecer moho en la tierra. Deshágase de los muebles, los tapetes y las cortinas que tengan olor a humedad. Revise que no haya moho en el baño.
  • Si es alérgico al polen, no salga cuando la concentración de polen sea alta.
  • No fume ni deje que otras personas lo hagan en su hogar. No use chimeneas ni estufas de leña. Evite los vapores de la pintura, los perfumes y otros olores fuertes.

¿Cuándo debe pedir ayuda?

Aplíquese una inyección de epinefrina si:

  • Piensa que está teniendo una reacción alérgica grave.
  • Tiene síntomas en más de una zona del cuerpo, como náuseas leves y comezón en la boca.

Después de aplicarse una inyección de epinefrina, llame al 911 incluso si se siente mejor.

Llame al 911 si:

  • Tiene síntomas de una reacción alérgica grave. Estos pueden incluir:
    • Zonas abultadas y enrojecidas (ronchas) que aparecen repentinamente por todo el cuerpo.
    • Hinchazón de la garganta, la boca, los labios o la lengua.
    • Dificultad para respirar.
    • Pérdida del conocimiento (desmayo). O podría sentirse muy mareado o de repente sentirse débil, confuso o agitado.
  • Le han aplicado una inyección de epinefrina, incluso si se siente mejor.

Llame a su médico ahora mismo o busque atención médica inmediata si:

  • Tiene síntomas de una reacción alérgica, tales como:
    • Salpullido o ronchas (zonas abultadas y enrojecidas en la piel).
    • Comezón.
    • Hinchazón.
    • Dolor abdominal, náuseas o vómito.

Preste especial atención a los cambios en su salud y asegúrese de comunicarse con su médico si:

  • Las alergias empeoran.
  • Tiene dificultad para controlar las alergias.
  • Tiene preguntas sobre las pruebas de alergia.
  • No mejora como se esperaba.
Instrucciones de cuidado adaptadas bajo licencia por Preview. Estas instrucciones de cuidado son para usarlas con su profesional clínico registrado. Si tiene preguntas acerca de una afección médica o de estas instrucciones, pregunte siempre a su profesional de la salud. Healthwise, Incorporated niega cualquier garantía o responsabilidad por su uso de esta información.