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Home Pharmacy (cont.)

Head and Sinus Congestion

  • Oral decongestants come in either pill or liquid form and act by shrinking engorged blood vessels in the nasal and sinus passages. It is important to read the ingredient list since many preparations contain multiple medications. These medications often contain an active ingredient such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) which is an adrenaline like drug. It should not be taken by individuals who have high blood pressure or who have palpitations or rapid heartbeat. These over the counter medications have warning labels that discuss their side effects. They may require special provision by the pharmacist at certain stores.
  • Nasal spray decongestants act similarly to oral decongestants but have the advantage of acting only in the area applied, usually without the stimulant side effects. The most common active ingredient in nasal sprays is oxymetazoline (for example, oxymetazoline [Afrin], Dristan Nasal Spray,phenylephrine [Neo-Synephrine]). Nasal sprays can cause a "rebound" effect where nasal symptoms can return if they are used for more than 3 days and then discontinued. It is important to read and follow the package label instructions. People with heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, or urinary retention due to an enlarged prostate should not use these medications.
  • Humidified air and salt water nasal sprays are effective alternatives to OTC medicated sprays and oral decongestants.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/4/2015

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