Catarrh - the patient experience

Rhinology. 2011 Oct;49(4):387-91. doi: 10.4193/Rhino11.055.


Background: No study to date has looked at the symptoms of chronic catarrh as defined by the patients themselves. We looked to explore the catarrh experience through the eyes of patients using a qualitative approach.

Methodology/principal: Forty-eight patients referred to Secondary Care with chronic catarrh, postnasal drip or persistent throat clearing completed an open-ended questionnaire from which a comprehensive symptom list was generated. Nineteen of these patients undertook semi-structured interviews to explore symptomatic themes relating to their catarrh using grounded theory analysis.

Results: A standardised list of 38 catarrh-related symptoms was generated covering a wide topography. A common theme amongst interviewees was the frustration of being unable to expectorate mucus rather than expelling too much.

Conclusions: Difficulties exist in establishing whether the extensive list of symptoms associated with catarrh is a result of differing experiences for patients or simply differing lexicon describing the same experience. Many of these symptoms are not included in the most commonly used nose/throat symptom instruments. Furthermore a distinction should be made between patients with true rhinitis who expel mucus and those who present with apparent postnasal drip or throat clearing but who cannot expectorate, whose management ought be focused more on symptom-coping strategies rather than medication or investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care
  • Rhinitis / diagnosis*
  • Rhinitis / psychology