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?

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:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/30/2016

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