Decongestants help to unblock a stuffy or blocked nose or congested sinuses. They work by narrowing blood vessels in your nose, throat and sinuses. Decongestants are available as nasal sprays and drops or as tablets and capsules.
Nasal decongestants (nasal sprays or drops)
Nasal decongestants are sprayed or dropped into your nose. They're used for the short-term relief of stuffiness or congestion of your nostrils that may be caused by the common cold, sinusitis, allergies or hay fever. Common examples of nasal decongestants include oxymetazoline (Drixine®) and xylometazoline (Otrivin®).
- Nasal decongestants clear a blocked nose almost immediately.
- They must be used for a short time only, usually only for 3 days (check the product packaging). If you use them for longer, they can cause rebound congestion of your nose and a painful or bleeding nose.
Decongestant tablets and capsules
Phenylephrine is the decongestant commonly found in tablets and capsules.
- It may be used alone or in combination with other ingredients in cold, flu, cough or sinus relief medicines.
- Decongestant tablets and capsules can cause increased blood pressure and heart rate, anxiety, restlessness and sleep problems (insomnia). They are best used for a short time (a few days). Using them for longer than this could cause side effects.
- Examples of decongestant tablets and capsules include Codral Decongestant, Codral Day & Night, Maxiclear Sinus Relief, Sudafed PE, Maxiclear Cold and Nasal Relief, Maxiclear Hayfever and Sinus Relief, Dimetapp Cold and Allergy, and Lemsip Max Cold & Flu.