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Decongestants

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Blocked, stuffy, or congested nose is an extremely irritating and annoying condition; no less than a nuisance. That’s when you look for nasal decongestants to de-clog your nasal passage and relieve you of the above symptoms.


What are decongestants?

Decongestants are medications used to relieve the nasal congestion or blockage by clearing the passage from clogged mucus and bringing down the swelling in and around the nasal mucosa.


How decongestants work?

Decongestants are drugs that dry up nasal passage, sinus, and bronchial secretions by causing the blood vessels to constrict (narrow) and reduce the blood flow in that area. This helps in opening up the nasal airway, making it easier to breath.


Purpose and usage of
decongestants :

Decongestants are an effectivetreatment, available over-the-counter, for quick but short term relief from conditions such as

  • Nasal congestion because of cold and flu
  • Post nasal drip
  • Some allergies
  • Sinus problems
  • Certain coughs and headaches, especially from sinus problems

Decongestants score relatively well in treating minor congestion from viruses and other illnesses. Wherein, if the illness has become an infection, decongestants may not be as effective.

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Available forms and dosage of decongestants:

Decongestants are available in various forms ranging from syrups, tablets, caplets, capsules, gel-caps, liqui-caps to nasal sprays and nose drops.

 

As far as the dosage is concerned, just like any other medication, it differs for various age groups.
For adults and children over 12 years old: 2 tablets every 4-6 hours, not to exceed 4 doses in 24 hours
For children between 6-12 years old: 1 tablet every 4-6 hours, not to exceed 4 doses in 24 hours
For children between 2 - 6 years old: 1 teaspoon every 4-6 hours, not to exceed 4 doses in 24 hours.
For children under 2 years old: Best to ask the physician

 

Common decongestants:

Some of the most common decongestants are:

  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Oxymetazoline
  • Phenylephrine
  • Xylometazoline


Limitations:

It is important to understand that decongestants can only “relieve” symptoms for a short period of time but “do not cure” the underlying cause (such as a cold or allergy) of congestion. They prove to be effective only for five to seven days but beyond that they can even cause the nasal passage to become more blocked and congested (rebound congestion).

 

Who all should avoid decongestants?

These medications should not be used by those who are allergic to them. Also, they may cause undesirable side effects in individuals with the following conditions:

  • Thyroid
  • Men with prostate problem
  • History of mental illness
  • Pregnant or women who are trying to get pregnant
  • Breastfeeding mothers

 

Probable side effects:

Decongestants are not as innocent as they sound.They also come laced with several side effects and should be consumed with caution.

Side effects of decongestant nasal sprays and nose drops:

The commonest side effects of decongestant nasal sprays and nose drops are sneezing, temporary burning, stinging, or dryness in the nasal area. These effects are usually momentary and do not need medical attention. But there could be more serious side effects such as,

  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Fast, slow, or fluttery heartbeat
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep problems

If any of these occur, stop the medication immediately and call or visit your physician.

Do not use nasal decongestants for more than 3-5 days. Use beyond that may cause swelling in the nasal passage and aggravates allergic symptoms.

Side effects of decongestant taken by mouth: The most common side effects are nervousness, restlessness, dizziness, excitability, drowsiness, nausea, headache, weakness, and sleep problems.

Patients who experience the below written symptoms while taking decongestants should discontinue the medication and call the physician immediately.
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Fast, irregular, or fluttery heartbeat
  • Tightness or discomfort in the chest
  • Severe headache, breathing problems
  • Fear, anxiety, trembling, or shaking
  • Hallucinations and convulsions (seizures)
  • Painful or difficult urination

 

Drug interaction:

Decongestants can interact with several other medicines. If an individual is taking any of the medicines listed below, he should consult doctor before taking a decongestant:

  • Diet pills
  • Antidepressant

 

Natural decongestants:

Those who are averse to using commercial medicines for congestion, they can try natural home remedies.

These natural, home care remedies include:

  • Gargling lukewarm salt water will help in clearing the mucus in the upper respiratory tract and reduce the infection.
  • Boil vinegar and breathe in the vapors for a couple of minutes. This will help clear congestion.
  • Drinking a shot of apple cider vinegar, however distasteful, will help you open up your blocked respiratory passages.
  • Use humidifiers or vaporizers to relieve congested nose and chest.
  • Drink a lot of hot liquids like green tea, chicken soup or hot water with lemon juice and honey to clear any form of congestion.
  • Eat a few cloves of garlic as it is known to have antibacterial as well as antifungal properties. Garlic clovesare also helpful in clearing congested nose and allow you to breathe better.
  • Spicy food will also help in clearing your congested nasal passages.


Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: October 09, 2012