Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Decongestants
Decongestants may help shrink swollen tissues in the nose, sinuses,
throat, and the space behind the eardrum (middle ear). This may relieve
pressure and pain.
Decongestants can be taken by mouth (oral) or
used as nose drops or sprays. Oral decongestants are probably more effective
and provide longer relief, but they cause more side effects. There are only two
nonprescription decongestants that you can take as a pill: pseudoephedrine
(such as Sudafed) and phenylephrine (such as Sudafed PE). 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
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
For more information about medicine safety, see Over-the-Counter Medicine Precautions and Quick Tips: Giving Over-the-Counter Medicines to Children.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerDonald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology
Current as ofMay 22, 2015
Current as of:
May 22, 2015
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
I Want To...
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.