You’re more than a little bit stuffy if you find it hard to breathe through your nose, your food tastes bland and your friends don’t recognize your voice when you answer the phone. Full-blown nasal congestion can be brought on by a run-of-the-mill cold, the flu, a sinus infection or allergies. But whether your body’s busy fighting off an infection or dealing with allergy-related inflammation, you don’t want a full nose to slow you down during the day and keep you up at night. An over-the-counter nasal decongestant can bring relief, provided you use it correctly.
Although it feels like your nose is packed with snot when it’s congested, that’s not exactly the case. Nasal congestion happens when your nasal tissues become swollen because the blood vessels inside your nose are inflamed. Add to that the excess mucus your body produces in response to an infection or allergen, and the stage is set for a blocked, stuffed-up nose. Nasal decongestants are a type of medicine that can give you quick, temporary relief. They work by shrinking the inflamed blood vessels inside your nose, which helps mucus flow, reduces pressure and makes it easier to breathe.
Over-the-Counter nasal decongestants are available in a variety of forms, including nasal sprays, tablets, capsules, liquids and even flavored powders that dissolve in hot water. Products that contain only decongestant medication are designed to relieve just one symptom: congestion. Multi-symptom medications that help with nasal congestion may also contain pain relievers, Fever reducers, cough suppressants or expectorants. When choosing a product, it’s important to avoid those that contain more ingredients than you need. If nasal congestion is your only symptom, Mucinex® Sinus-Max® Full Force® Nasal Spray delivers relief without overmedicating. For those who prefer a pill, Maximum Strength Mucinex® D tablets can provide similar relief.
You should always consult your doctor before taking any OTC medication, including nasal decongestants. That’s because decongestant medicine doesn’t just shrink the blood vessels in your nose, it constricts all the blood vessels throughout your body. Although most people can safely use OTC nasal decongestants, they’re generally not recommended for anyone who has high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, glaucoma, an overactive thyroid or an enlarged prostate. Pregnant and nursing women should also avoid using decongestants without a doctor’s approval, because it’s not yet clear whether these medications are safe for developing fetuses or
To get the most benefit from a nasal decongestant, follow these simple steps:
- Get your doctor’s approval if you have any health conditions or are taking other medications because nasal decongestants can interact with certain drugs, including antidepressants.
- Choose a product that addresses only the symptoms you have. Those with a single ingredient are specifically made to target nasal congestion.
- Follow the medicine’s dosing and timing instructions exactly.
- Don’t rely on decongestant nasal sprays for longer than about a week at a time. Overusing decongestant sprays can actually make your congestion worse.
- Support your efforts to reduce congestion by drinking plenty of water to thin your mucus. A warm compress placed over the bridge of your nose can help ease sinus pressure, while getting plenty of rest can help speed your recovery.
- Cleveland Clinic: Acute Sinusitis
- Medline Plus: Sinusitis
- Medline Plus: Stuffy or Runny Nose — Adult
- Medline Plus: Sinusitis in Adults – Aftercare
- NHS Choices: Decongestants
- Harvard Health Publications: Don’t Let Decongestants Squeeze Your Heart
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Symptom Relief