Catarrh - symptoms, causes, home remedies & treatment

What causes catarrh?

Catarrh is usually caused by the immune system reacting to an infection or irritation, which causes the lining of your nose and throat to become swollen and produce mucus.

Triggers can be:

  • a cold or other infections

  • hay fever or other types of allergic rhinitis

  • nasal polyps

The cause of chronic catarrh is still unclear, but it's not thought to be the result of an allergy or infection.

It may be related to an abnormality in the way mucus travels within the nose or increased sensitivity to mucus in the back of the nose and throat.


Catarrh can lead to:

  • the constant need to clear your throat

  • feeling that your throat is blocked

  • blocked or stuffy nose that you cannot clear

  • runny nose

  • the feeling of mucus running down the back of your throat

  • persistent cough

  • headache or facial pain

  • reduced sense of smell and taste

  • crackling sensation in your ear and some temporary hearing loss

These problems can be frustrating to live with and may affect your sleep, making you feel tired.


Catarrh will often pass in a few days or weeks as the condition that causes it improves.

There are things you can try at home to relieve your symptoms, such as:

  • avoiding things that trigger your symptoms, such as allergens or smoky places

  • taking sips of cold water when you feel the need to clear your throat – constantly clearing your throat may make things worse

  • using a saline nasal rinse several times a day – these can be bought from a pharmacy or made at home with half a teaspoon of salt in a pint of boiled water that's been left to cool

  • avoiding warm, dry atmospheres, such as places with air conditioning and car heating systems – placing plants or bowls of water in a room may help to keep the air humid

  • staying well hydrated

  • talking to a pharmacist about suitable over-the-counter medicines – including decongestants, antihistamines or steroid nasal sprays

When to Consult a Doctor

Consult a doctor if your catarrh persists and is becoming difficult to live with to rule out conditions that could be causing it, such as nasal polyps or allergies. If you're diagnosed with a specific underlying condition, treating it may help relieve your catarrh.

For example, nasal polyps may be treated with a steroid nasal spray or surgery.

If a cause for your catarrh cannot be found, the self-help techniques above may be recommended.

Unfortunately, however, chronic catarrh can be hard to treat and may last for a long time.