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Nasal decongestants are used to provide relief to inflamed and irritated sinuses, according to FamilyDoctor.org 1. The sinuses are large cavities behind the eyes and nose that are delicate and easily aggravated. Nasal congestion is often the result of a cold, the flu, allergies or sinus infections, and can cause discomfort and pain from pressure. Nasal decongestants come in pill or nasal spray form 1. Consult your doctor before taking any medication.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Pseudophedrine is a nasal decongestant sold in pill form and is available behind the pharmacist's counter, according to FamilyDoctor.org. Pseudoephedrine is not available for consumers to buy directly off the shelf because of abuse of the drug, but a prescription is not required 2. Pseudoephedrine works by restricting blood flow to the sinus cavities, according to Drugs.com 2. This causes the sinus cavity to shrink to its normal size. This drug is available in four-hour doses, 12-hour doses and 24-hour doses.
- Pseudophedrine is a nasal decongestant sold in pill form and is available behind the pharmacist's counter, according to FamilyDoctor.org.
The Effects of Decongestants
Phenylephrine is available over the counter in pill form 3. Phenylephrine has a similar effect to that of pseudophedrine, restricting blood flow to the sinus cavities to reduce inflammation 3. Phenylephrine should not be taken by those with heart disease, glaucoma, kidney disease, high blood pressure, sleeping issues, mental illness, circulation issues or a thyroid disorder, according to Drugs.com 3. Side effects can include:
- upset stomach
- sleep issues
- decreased urination
Phenylephrine is available in a single dose taken once every four hours 3.
Oxymetazoline Nasal Spray
Oxymetazoline is a powerful drug used as the active ingredient in most over the counter decongestant nasal sprays 4. The drug restricts blood flow to the nasal cavity, reducing nasal congestion. The nose should be blown before use. The medication is sprayed two to three times into each nostril, according to Drugs.com. The nasal spray may cause sneezing. Oxymetazoline is not intended for long-term use and can cause nasal congestion symptoms to worsen if used too much 4. Drugs.com states that it should only be used for three consecutive days, unless otherwise directed by a doctor.
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- Family Doctor: Decongestants
- Drugs.com: Pseudoephedrine
- Drugs.com: Phenylephrine
- Drugs.com: Oxymetazoline
- InformedHealth.org. Treating acute sinusitis. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Updated October 18, 2018.
- Barshak MB, Durand ML. The role of infection and antibiotics in chronic rhinosinusitis. Laryngoscope Investig Otolaryngol. 2017;2(1):36-42. doi:10.1002/lio2.61
- MedlinePlus. Pseudoephedrine. Updated February 5, 2020.
- MedlinePlus. Phenylephrine. Updated February 5, 2020.
- MedlinePlus. Oxymetazoline nasal spray. Updated February 5, 2020.
- Deckx L, De Sutter AI, Guo L, Mir NA, van Driel ML. Nasal decongestants in monotherapy for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;10(10):CD009612. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009612.pub2
- Malone M, Kennedy TM. Review: Side effects of some commonly used allergy medications (decongestants, anti-leukotriene agents, antihistamines, steroids, and zinc) and their safety in pregnancy. Int J Aller Medications. 2017;3:024. doi:10.23937/2572-3308.1510024
- CardioSmart, American College of Cardiology. Phenylephrine. Updated December 15, 2010.
- National Health Service (UK). Decongestants. Updated February 28, 2019.
Emily DeSerio has been a freelance writer since November 2009. DeSerio works in the mental health field as a clinical social worker. She began her higher level education at the University of South Florida (USF) with a B.A. in English and went on to complete a Master of Social Work degree at USF as well.