- Dear Marsha,
My first word of advice is ‘over-the-counter medication’ does not mean ‘safe by all means.’ Chocolate does not need prescription either but if we eat too much... Decongestants make breathing easier by shrinking swollen mucous membranes in the nose, allowing air to pass through. They also help relieve runny nose and postnasal drip, which can cause a sore throat.
Decongestants can be taken orally or used as nose drops or sprays.
Oral decongestants are probably more effective and provide longer relief, but they cause more side effects. Pseudoephedrine is an oral decongestant.
Sprays and drops provide rapid but temporary relief. Nasal sprays containing phenylephrine are effective. Sprays and drops are less likely to interact with other drugs than oral decongestants are. Saline nose drops are not decongestants but may help keep nasal tissues moist so the tissues can filter air.
Decongestant precautions - the ‘three’ rule:
Don’t use medicated nasal sprays or drops more than three times a day or for more than three days in a row. Too much will cause a ‘rebound effect’ and your mucous membranes will swell up more than before.
Decongestants can cause problems with certain conditions (heart disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, diabetes, or an overactive thyroid) and may interact with some drugs: antidepressants and high blood pressure medicines.
Dr. De La Flor, G.P. is licensed in medicine & general surgery. He holds certificates in nutrition, medical exercise and human performance from the University of Berkeley in California, the American Council on Exercise and the U.S. National Strength & Conditioning Association. He is a strong believer in work/life balance and spends much of his time outside of his surgery on the tennis court or chasing his four kids around the neighborhood.