MCR American Pharmaceuticals explains decongestants and provides some additional information.

Brooksville, Florida — March 1, 2012

What are decongestants

Decongestants are a type of medication that may provide relief on a short-term basis for a stuffy nose. Decongestants are a variety of different medications that help clear up sinus and head congestion. Decongestants are most often used to treat colds, hay fever, the flu, sinusitis and are available without a prescription.

Decongestants are sold in many forms including tablets, capsules, caplets, gelcaps, liquid-caps, liquids, nasal sprays, and nose drops. Decongestants are sometimes combined with other medicines in cold and allergy products designed to relieve several symptoms. Some decongestant products require a physician's prescription, but there are also many nonprescription products.

Examples of decongestants include Pseudoephedrine, oxymetazoline, and naphazoline.

How do they work

The inside of your nose is filled with many blood vessels, when the blood vessels become irritated by something like an infection or an allergy, increased blood supplies flow to the vessels as part of your body's immune response.

The increased levels of blood flow cause your blood vessels to swell so they eventually block the nasal airway, causing difficulty in breathing through your nose.

Decongestants work by drying up the excessive production of mucus usually associated with cold symptoms. They work by causing the blood vessels in the nasal membranes to narrow. This reduces inflammation, swelling, and mucus production produced by the nasal lining.

Although decongestants help relieve you of your nasal congestion, they cannot cure the underlying cause of your stuffy nose.

What they do

Decongestants relieve the symptoms of the common cold by stopping the body from producing too much mucus. Decongestants are good for both blocked runny noses as well as for symptoms associated with sinus problems.

Are decongestants effective?

Decongestants are considered effective for minor congestion from viruses and other illnesses. If your illness has become an infection, remember that decongestants are less effective against infections.

Who can use decongestants?

Most people can use decongestant medicines, although they are not suitable for everyone. Decongestants are not recommended for children under 12 years of age unless advised by their doctor.

Research has still not proven that decongestants are safe to take during pregnancy, primarily during the first three months. So to be safe, their use is not recommended unless advised by your doctor. When it pertains to breastfeeding, certain decongestants are safe to take if breastfeeding, but there are some that are not recommended and can be dangerous.

Prior to taking any sort of decongestant it is recommended you consult your physician or pharmacist.

Who should not use decongestants?

Side effects

There are different side effects for the varying types of decongestants.

Decongestant nasal sprays and nose drops: The most common side effects from decongestant nasal sprays and nose drops are temporary burning, stinging, dryness and repeated sneezing. These side effects are normal and do not require medical attention. However, if the following side effects occur stop using the medicine and call a medical professional: increased blood pressure; fast, slow heartbeat; nervousness; sleep problems; dizziness; nausea; and headaches.

For decongestants taken by mouth the most common side effect include nervousness, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, sleep problems, and excitability. Patients who have the following symptoms should stop using the decongestant and seek a physician: increased blood pressure; severe headaches; breathing problems; trembling; painful or difficult urination; pale skin; seizures; hallucinations; discomfort in the chest; anxiety; and fast, slow heartbeat.


Do not use decongestant nasal sprays for more than 3-5 days. Use beyond five days can cause swelling in the nasal passage and aggravates allergic symptoms.

Decongestants may cause a problem called rebound congestion if used repeatedly over several days. When this condition occurs, the nose remains blocked and can get worse with time. The only way to stop the cycle is to stop using the decongestant nasal spray or nose drops.

Do not use decongestant nasal sprays for more than three days, and decongestants taken by mouth should not be used for more than seven days.

If the decongestant passed its expiration date, do not use it anymore. If the medicine looks discolored or cloudy, throw it away and cease using it.

Before using any sort of decongestant read the instructions and if you have any questions call your physician or pharmacist.

Drug or food interaction

The main interactions which can occur with decongestants are if you are taking medication for blood pressure, or are taking certain antidepressants. There are some other less common interactions so always check with your pharmacist before taking decongestants.

Anyone who is taking a decongestant should notify their physician prior to starting other medications. The following are drugs that may interact with decongestants:

What is the allowed dosage?

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