Rebound Congestion

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Rebound congestion is a constant nasal stuffiness (congestion) that develops from the overuse of nasal sprays (or drops or gels) that contain a decongestant medicine. This type of congestion occurs even when a person is not experiencing allergies or other coldlike symptoms.

Some examples of nasal spray decongestants are oxymetazoline (such as Afrin or Zicam Extreme Congestion Relief) and phenylephrine (such as Neo-Synephrine).

Rebound congestion can develop from using a nasal decongestant more times in one day or more days than the label says. As the medicine wears off, sinus membranes swell, causing congestion, and a person may respond by using a higher dose of decongestant. If the cycle continues, a person builds up a tolerance by using larger and larger doses until congestion occurs whenever the person does not take the medication.

Rebound congestion can lead to addiction to decongestant nasal sprays.

Current as of: November 14, 2014

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine & Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology