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Decongestants may help shrink swollen tissues in the nose, sinuses,
throat, and the space behind the eardrum (middle ear). This may relieve
pressure, pain, and stuffiness (congestion).
Decongestants can be taken by mouth as a pill or liquid (oral) or
used as nose drops, sprays, or gels. The oral kind provides longer relief but may cause more side effects than the ones that are used in the nose. Sprays and drops provide rapid but temporary
relief. Sprays and drops are less
likely to interact with other medicines, which may be a problem with oral
To know if an over-the-counter medicine contains a decongestant, check the label for the active ingredient. Examples of decongestants are:
In some states, any
medicine that contains pseudoephedrine is kept behind the pharmacist's counter
so you will need to ask the pharmacist for it. In other states, you have to
have a prescription from your doctor to buy medicine containing
For more information about medicine safety, see Over-the-Counter Medicine Precautions and Quick Tips: Giving Over-the-Counter Medicines to Children.
Current as of:
January 24, 2014
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology
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