Coping with catarrh

What catarrh or nasal discharge means to you

by Dr Joel Akande

The nose, ear and throat are much related. What affects the nose may affect the other two organs and vice versa. Nasal discharge is a common symptom of an underlying disease state in both adults and children. Nasal discharge or “catarrh” is excessive discharge or build-up of mucus in the nose or throat, associated with inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the surfaces of these structures of nose and throat. What causes catarrh?

Just as in the case of ear discharge, nasal discharge could be due and is often due to infection. Most of the infection is of viral origin. Being of viral origin has significant implications on the type of intervention that a physician may provide for the sufferer. We shall discuss the treatment later on. Nasal infection causing nasal discharge could similarly be due to bacteria invasion or parasites.

In some cases, foreign body that is lodged in the nasal passages may give rise to discharge too. Some individuals, who suffer from allergies could present with catarrh. Such allergies could be anything, but commonly, it’s due to pollution found in environment or items within the house. The allergy could be perennial or year round. It could also be seasonal. Grass, pollens, weeds or petroleum products could be a source of allergic reactions that cause nasal discharge. Dyes, garment items, food, fumes, cosmetics, dusts, house mites and some soap may lead to nasal allergic reactions. The list could be endless and thorough investigations may be required to determine the particular cause of the nasal discharge.

Further, serious life threatening diseases of the sinuses such as cancer may be the cause of nasal discharge. In addition, benign or innocent growth in the sinuses and the nostrils may be the underlying disease that so often causes catarrh. Yet, diseases of the throat, ear or other areas of the head may lead to catarrh.

Class of Catarrh

Catarrh can be acute or chronic. In acute, it is sudden and limiting in duration. Such is the case as found in acute infection of “cold” due to viruses and bacteria. Foreign bodies that lay in place for a long time may give a chronic nasal discharge. Very often, chronic catarrh is due to allergic reactions, growth within the sinuses or nose that may be benign or malignant.

When an accident occurs that affects the brain, a bloody or clear nasal discharge could present. Either way, nasal discharge due to an accident, should be considered as an extreme emergency that requires immediate medical attention.


Acute nasal discharge that is due to infection could come with fever, headache, sore throat, cough, chest discomfort, slight difficulty in breathing and sleeping. The individual feels generally unwell. In chronic discharge, the discharge may be of different colours and offensive. There may be no fever accompanying the stuffy nose. Sleep could be disturbed and snoring may be an irritation to family members. Mouth breathing can occur in either or both of chronic and acute nasal discharges. Sneezing may also occur in both acute and chronic catarrh as is coughing.

Treatment and

what you can do

In allergic catarrh that comes with breathlessness or a sign of asthma, the victim should consider attending a physician urgently. Breathlessness of any nature is an emergency. Shortness of breath requires instant medical attention.

Apart from a need for urgent medical intervention, you should endeavour to drink a lot of water to replace the lost water through discharge and mouth breathing. If there is fever, initial fever-reliever such as paracetamol may be of help. Most viral causes of nasal discharge is self-limiting. When a discharge has gone on for more than say two weeks, it becomes chronic and more medical assistance may be needed in such a situation.

The doctor may conduct initial assessment before referring the sufferer for a specialist attention if required. In general, in a lot of ways, nasal discharge is often dealt with by the general practitioner and you should take advantage of such to improve your health.

The Nation

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