Some of the medications used to treat respiratory allergy symptoms include antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays and eyedrops. This article focuses on decongestants.
Decongestants help reduce congestion in your nasal membranes by constricting the blood vessels that supply those membranes. Generally taken as a liquid, pill or nasal spray, they may be used in conjunction with an antihistamine or alone to treat nasal swelling related to allergies.
Some of the medications used to treat respiratory allergy symptoms include antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays and eyedrops.
Decongestants are available over-the-counter (OTC) and by prescription. Examples of decongestants include pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, others) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine nasal spray). Short-term use of OTC decongestant nasal sprays can help briefly control swelling and congestion. However, don’t use these OTC decongestant sprays for more than 3 days, as they can cause rebound congestion (rhinitis medicamentosa). In this condition, the brief period of relief is followed by membrane swelling that causes severe nasal obstruction with repeated use. Decongestant sprays are best reserved for very-short-term use to relieve temporary congestion due to a cold or sinus infection. Other side effects of decongestants can include increased blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, and a fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeat.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medications.
Revision date: July 5, 2011
Last revised: by David A. Scott, M.D.