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A man in a white t-shirt is holding/rubbing his throat with his left hand – he looks as though he is in some discomfort. The word – Catarrh – can be seen

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Catarrh is a build-up of mucus in the airways, or in a cavity of the body.

While most experiences of catarrh are temporary, there are some cases where individuals suffer for many months and years. This condition is known as chronic catarrh.

Catarrh usually affects the back of the throat, the back of the nose and the sinuses, and can cause discomfort. It is said that catarrh is formed due to the immune system reacting to infection, or irritation. This reaction then causes the lining at the back of the nose and throat to become swollen and your nose then may produce mucus.

There are typical triggers that cause catarrh, although it is not known what causes chronic catarrh. Some of the main factors include:

• having a cold, or other nasal infection, like a stuffy nose,

• hay fever and allergies that affect the airways, or cavities,

• non-allergic rhinitis and

• polyps.

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It is suggested that there are two types of catarrh that have different experiences for the sufferer. Firstly, catarrh may cause excess mucus to run from the nose, which is also known as rhinitis.

Secondly, some individuals may get a similar sensation as above however, they are unable to clear the mucus from their throat, or nose.

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Sufferers have often referred to catarrh as feeling like they have a constant cold with a feeling of mucus in their throat and a runny nose. However, they don’t display any of the other symptoms of a common cold.

There are several other signs that catarrh could be the issue, including:

• constant blocked nose, or a throat that cannot be cleared,

• runny nose,

• persistent coughing,

• headaches and pains in the face,

• temporary hearing loss, or crackling in the ears,

• reduced sense of smell, or taste and

• a sensation of mucus regularly running down the throat.

In some cases, the feeling of a blocked nose and throat can interrupt sleep. Therefore, an individual may also feel tired and stressed.

Treatment For Catarrh

The NHS highlights that catarrh typically eases within a few days, or weeks. However, some people do experience catarrh for more extended periods. There is a range of things that can be done for catarrh treatment to relieve the symptoms, including avoiding triggers.


A range of things, including allergens, can trigger catarrh. It can be helpful to know what your triggers are and avoid them as much as possible. Catarrh could even be triggered by something as simple as a smoky environment.

Sip Cold Water

The urge for clearing your throat is tempting. However, this can cause damage to the throat if you continuously try to clear it and keep coughing. Sipping cold water, or using a straw can help to soothe it and should enable you to reduce the temptation to cough.

Try a Saline Nasal Rinse

A saline nasal rinse can be purchased from a local pharmacy. It can be used to help to clear a stuffy nose and throat and relieves the frustration of a blocked airway. You can make this solution at home by adding half a teaspoon of salt to boiling water, then leaving it to cool completely before you use it.

Avoid Warm, Dry Air

Warm, dry air can irritate your nose and throat, and this environment may "encourage" you to clear your throat. If you have catarrh, this type of environment should be avoided as much as possible, until the symptoms have eased.

Drink More Water

Hydration is another factor to ease catarrh. The nose and throat will feel dry and irritated, so drinking plenty of fluids is helpful.

Over the Counter Medication

If catarrh is not easing quickly, then some over the counter medicines may be able to help. This includes antihistamines, decongestants and a steroid nasal spray.

Herbal remedies including a nasal spray have been said to benefit, although there is no clear medical evidence of this. Talking to a pharmacist will help choose the right product for your needs.

When to Visit a Doctor

Catarrh generally is a short-term condition that clears up over time. However, some people experience prolonged periods of it, commonly known as chronic catarrh. If you are having issues with this, and catarrh is affecting your lifestyle, it is worth going to see the doctor.

If catarrh still doesn't go away, then your GP might ask for others tests to be conducted to rule out problems that may causes catarrh, such as nasal polyps, or allergies.

Nasal polyps, or allergy tests, amongst other ones will be used to identify issues, so appropriate treatments can be put in place. Some people still may experience an unexplained diagnosis of chronic catarrh, and help will be provided by a GP to ease the symptoms until it clears.

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In most cases, catarrh is something that goes away after a few weeks. However, long-term issues could mean that lifestyle is affected. Medical professionals can assist with advice on ways to manage catarrh symptoms at home. There may be suitable prescription medication if required. However, they may not help in all cases.

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The NHS is an excellent resource for helping manage symptoms of catarrh. Doctors will also help to rule out underlying conditions that may be affecting this condition. 

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Medical terms are often baffling and difficult to fully understand. To help, we have listed some frequently used terms below.

• Allergens – a type of antigen that produces an unusually vigorous immune response 

• Allergy – overreaction of the body to a specific external item such as food, pollen, insects, latex and specific chemicals

• Antihistamine – a form of medication used to treat rhinitis and other allergies

• Chronic – refers to being persistent, or long-lasting

• Decongestants – a type of medicine used to relieve nasal congestion

• Hydration – the process of making the body absorb water, or other liquid

• Immune system – a complex system of special organs, cells and chemicals that fight infection

• Infection – the invasion and multiplication of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and parasites not usually present within the body

• Mucus – a sticky and stringy substance produced by lining tissues in the body, acting as a protective and moisturising layer to prevent critical organs from drying out

• Nasal polyps – painless soft growths inside the nose 

• Pharmacist – a professionally qualified person to prepare and dispense medicinal drugs

• Rhinitis – inflammation and swelling on the inside of the nose either caused by allergies, or infection

• Steroids – a man-made version of chemicals (hormones) designed to reduce inflammation

• Trigger – something that sets off a disease, or flare up