How Does a Decongestant Work to Help You Cough Less

14 Aug 2018

How Does a Decongestant Work to Help You Cough Less

When you have a cough, you'll try just about anything to feel better. Over-the-counter medications provide a convenient option, but which should you choose? Decongestants are one potentially helpful choice. While they aren't designed specifically for cough relief, they may help minimize your symptoms while bringing additional cold-fighting perks.

Take a peek at the product ingredients, and you'll likely see phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine on the list. While a variety of ingredients work as decongestants, these two are the most common. Depending on the product, Mucinex® cold and sinus medicines contain one of these decongestants as active ingredients. Mucinex® Fast-Max Day Time Severe Congestion & Cough and Mucinex® Sinus-Max® Pressure & Pain both contain phenylephrine, whereas Mucinex® D contains pseudoephedrine.

Decongestants, including phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine, work by constricting blood vessels. This allows more air to pass freely through your nose and leads to drier nasal tissues and less mucus draining down the back of your throat. Known as postnasal drip, this drainage can cause coughing and related problems such as throat pain and difficulty swallowing. In other words, as decongestants reduce postnasal drip, you'll tend to cough less often and experience less pain and discomfort.

When you have a cough, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with other symptoms as well, such as sinus pressure and a stuffy or runny nose. As decongestants constrict your blood vessels, these symptoms also tend to improve. The less congested you are, the more likely you’ll be able to rest and recover. If you take a multi-symptom cough medicine, such as Maximum Strength Mucinex® Fast-Max® Cold, Flu & Sore Throat Liquid, you'll reap the benefits of a decongestant — plus an expectorant to loosen mucus, a cough suppressant to minimize coughing and a pain reliever for any throat or sinus pain.

Lifestyle habits can go a long way toward easing cough symptoms, on their own or paired with medication.

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water or other fluids helps thin the mucus in your throat.
  • Suck a lozenge. Throat lozenges are known as cough drops for good reason. Let a lozenge dissolve in your mouth to soothe your throat and to ease a tickling, dry cough.
  • Use a humidifier. Dry air can worsen throat pain and coughing. A humidifier can help by keeping moistening the air you breathe.
  • Rest. Skimping on rest when you have a cough or cold makes healing tougher. Allow yourself to relax and sleep as needed.