Can Sinus Drainage Cause a Cough?



 Many people with these issues find themselves asking, “Can sinus drainage cause a cough?”. We’re here to help give you some answers.

Sinus drainage is constantly happening in your body. This is normal; your sinuses need to drain all the mucus that they produce. (Your sinuses create and drain up to a quart of mucus per day!) Mucus coats the inside of the sinus cavity and traps infectious agents like bacteria, and then it mixes with saliva and you swallow it. This is an ongoing, automatic process, and normally you don’t notice this drainage.

But sometimes, it does become noticeable. When the mucus is thicker than normal or you produce particularly large amounts of it, it may come out the nostril as a runny nose, or you may feel it as it drains into the throat. This is called post-nasal drip, and it can cause a cough.

What Can Cause Post-nasal Drip?

Post-nasal drip can happen as a result of many medical conditions1,2 including:

  • flu
  • cold
  • allergy
  • a crooked “wall” between the nostrils (called a deviated septum)
  • sinus infection, causing sinusitis or sinus inflammation
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD
  • pregnancy

Spicy food, cold and dry air, fumes or smoke, and other factors can also cause mucus to run out of the sinuses faster than normal.


Have you experienced any of the following symptoms for 12 consecutive weeks or longer and are over the age of 18?

  • Facial pain, pressure, or fullness
  • Difficulty breathing through nose
  • Descreased sense of smell
  • Drainage of cloudy or colored mucus
See if my symptoms are chronic sinusitis arrow

When you produce excess mucus and it goes down your throat, making you feel as though you constantly have to clear mucus from your throat, that’s post-nasal drip.

Post-nasal Drip Common Symptoms

This excess mucus in the throat can cause unpleasant symptoms — including coughing. The mucus triggers the body’s natural coughing reflex, and this is called upper airway cough syndrome (UACS). A hoarse voice and a sore throat are other symptoms that may appear at the same time.3

If you wind-up with post-nasal drip and a cough, you may benefit from seeing a doctor, depending on how severe your symptoms are and how long they last. Besides the common cold there are other symptoms that can lead to issues with the ear, nose and throat.

Additional side effects can include:

  • scratchy throat
  • ear infections
  • sinus infection

What treatment options are available for a cough caused by sinus drainage?

The treatment your doctor gives you will depend on what causes the post-nasal drip, and can include different medical advice as well as various solutions:1,4

  • antibiotics, if the cause is a bacterial infection.
  • antihistamines, decongestants and other medicines, where appropriate.
  •  avoiding the source of any allergies that may be causing post-nasal drip.
  • elevating the head during sleep and changing eating habits, if you have GERD.

Should I see a doctor when sinus drainage causes a cough?

Sinus drainage accompanied by coughing is very irritating, but it may go away on its own. If it does not, if it stays around for weeks, this may be a sign of a persistent condition that needs medical attention.

Also, if you bring up phlegm, if you can’t sleep because of the symptoms, or it’s affecting your studies or job, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. If you bring up blood, let a doctor know right away. The doctor will be able to figure out the precise cause of your post-nasal drip and UACS, and to recommend an effective treatment.



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The purpose of the site is to help create awareness about sinusitis and treatment options for the disease. Please note that information contained on this site is not medical advice. It should not be used as a substitute for speaking with your physician. Always talk with your physician about diagnosis and treatment information.