Nasal Decongestants

  • Medical Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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What are nasal decongestants?

Nasal Decongestants

What are nasal decongestants?

Decongestants are used to treat nasal congestion. Nasal decongestants are applied to nasal passages to reduce congestion and discomfort due to allergies and the common cold. Decongestants cause blood vessels in the nasal passages to shrink (vasoconstrict). Vasoconstriction reduces nasal congestion by preventing fluid from draining from blood vessels into the tissues lining the nasal passages.

Examples of nasal decongestants include:

Short-acting nasal decongestants

  • ephedrine (Not available in the U.S.)
  • levmetamfetamine or L-desoxyephedrine (Vicks Vapo Inhaler)
  • naphazoline (Privine)
  • phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine, Little Noses Decongestant Nose Drops, 4-Way Fast Acting)
  • propylhexedrine (Benzedrex Inhaler)

Long-acting decongestants (8 to 12 hours)

  • xylometazoline (Triaminic Decongestant Spray Nasal & Sinus Congestion)
  • oxymetazoline (Afrin, Vicks Sinex, Zicam Nasal Gel)

What are the side effects of nasal decongestants?

Side effects of nasal decongestants include:

What drugs interact with nasal decongestants?

Nasal decongestants decrease levels of intranasal nicotine. They prolong the time to reach peak concentrations and decrease peak concentrations of nicotine intranasal.

What formulations of nasal decongestants are available?

Nasal decongestants are available as sprays, drops, and inhalers.

Are nasal decongestants safe during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?

Intranasal decongestants may be absorbed into the blood stream. They have not been adequately evaluated in pregnant or breastfeeding women. They should only be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding if the benefits outweigh the risks.

REFERENCE: Pray, W., et al. "Safe Use of Nasal Decongestants." Medscape.

Last Editorial Review: 3/30/2016

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Reviewed on 3/30/2016
REFERENCE: Pray, W., et al. "Safe Use of Nasal Decongestants." Medscape.

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