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Best nasal decongestant

Which nasal decongestant is best?

Whether you're stuffed up from allergies or are dealing with the common cold, the best nasal decongestants help reduce the symptoms of a stuffy nose. These medicines can help lessen swelling and inflammation, making breathing easier. Nasal decongestants can minimize sniffling and sneezing, and they help you get a good night’s rest.

The best option is the Vicks Sinex Severe Nasal Spray because it works quickly to clear up the nasal passageway for near-immediate relief.

What to know before you buy a nasal decongestant

What are nasal decongestants?

Nasal decongestants are a form of medicine that provides temporary relief for a stuffy or runny nose. It also alleviates sinus pressure and general breathing issues caused by general illness or allergies. They are available at your local pharmacy, and you can purchase them without a prescription. They come in nasal sprays, liquids, pills and drops.

If you are experiencing a runny, stuffy nose due to allergies or a cold, a decongestant could help. But if your symptoms include sneezing, itching or watery eyes, an antihistamine might be more beneficial.

One exception is if you get a medication such as Allegra-D or Zyrtec-D, which is an antihistamine and decongestant combined in one.

How decongestants works

Decongestants shrink swollen tissues and blood vessels through a process called vasoconstriction. This process lessens the inflammation, letting air pass through the nasal passages unhindered. While these medicines provide relief, they cannot cure the root problem. If you want a more long-term solution, connect with your primary care physician for more guidance.


Nasal decongestants come in two main forms:

  • LiquidNasal sprays, nose drops and liquids come in small portable containers. They sometimes have a bitter taste but are easy to use. For sprays, simply tip the container back into the nasal passage, press the top down and inhale.
  • Pills: These take longer to kick in and should be taken with a spray or nose drops for maximum benefit. You can take these with water.

Concerns and side effects

Decongestants are generally safe to take, but you should consult a doctor before if any of the following conditions apply:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart conditions
  • Thyroid or prostate problems
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetes
  • You take SSRIs

Some medications cause jitters, rapid heartbeat or difficulty sleeping. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting, dizziness and headaches. If you experience any of these or have an allergic reaction, stop taking the decongestant immediately. If you take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), some oral nasal decongestants can increase your serotonin levels and may put you at risk for serotonin syndrome. Consult your doctor or psychiatrist if you're unsure if you should take an oral nasal decongestant.

What to look for in a quality nasal decongestant

Active ingredients

Most decongestants have pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine or oxymetazoline as their main active ingredient. These ingredients are typically non-drowsy and target nasal congestion. Some of the most common medicines are Vicks, Sudafed and Silafedrine.

Some medicines, such as Benadryl Allergy and Claritin-D, act as a decongestant and antihistamine. These both contain pseudoephedrine, which can alleviate nasal congestion, watery eyes and other symptoms caused by hay fever or seasonal allergies.

Proper usage

When using any form of medicine, follow the directions listed on the packaging or as provided by your doctor. Generally, it’s safe to take a pill form once every 4-6 hours, with a maximum of four doses each day. With nasal sprays and drops, try to limit them to one to three times a day. You should stop using a nasal spray after three days. Otherwise, you could build up an immunity to it, making the medicine less effective.

Duration of effect

How long it takes for the decongestant to take effect depends on the medicine and person. For example, Afrin’s nasal spray could start working immediately and last between three and 12 hours. Some oral decongestants may take a bit longer to start working.

How much you can expect to spend on a nasal decongestant

Most over-the-counter nasal decongestants, including tablets and sprays, cost around $5-$25. The price range depends on the brand, formula and quantity.

Nasal decongestant FAQ

Should children use nasal decongestants?

A. You should not give cold or cough medicine that contains decongestants or antihistamines to children under 2 years old. These medicines could cause severe or even life-threatening conditions or side effects. For older children, use decongestants sparingly and make sure they’re formulated specifically for them. For example, Children’s Mucinex is safe for kids ages 6 and up.

What are some ways to alleviate congestion naturally?

A. Other options include getting a humidifier, neti pot or taking a steam bath. You should also stay hydrated and try to keep your nasal passages moist, so they remain clear.

What’s the best nasal decongestant to buy?

Top nasal decongestant

Vicks Sinex Severe Nasal Spray

What you need to know: This two-pack of nasal sprays uses a fine mist to provide up to 12 hours of relief.

What you’ll love: These sprays come in 15-milliliter containers and last for approximately 530 sprays each. They’re great for the common cold, seasonal allergies and upper respiratory allergies. They’re also suitable for individuals over the age of 6.

What you should consider: Those trying to manage high blood pressure should consult a doctor before using these sprays, as they can result in higher blood pressure.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top nasal decongestant for the money

Sudafed PE Sinus Congestion Maximum Strength Non-Drowsy Decongestant Tablets

What you need to know: This non-drowsy decongestant comes in pill form and is easy to take with water.

What you’ll love: Available in 18-count, 24-count and 36-count bottles, this medicine provides maximum strength to clear sinus congestion and pressure. It’s recommended for individuals 12 years old and up.

What you should consider: Many feel the newer formula isn’t as effective as the original formula.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Afrin Original Maximum-Strength 12-Hour Nasal Congestion Relief

What you need to know: Offering up to 12 hours of relief, this nasal spray is a great option for tackling congestion related to allergies or the common cold.

What you’ll love: The pump mist design delivers the maximum strength formula easily, and it works quickly. It contains 15 milliliters and can alleviate pressure in the nose, ears and head.

What you should consider: The nozzle for the spray is not very long, so it can be tricky to spray it effectively.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Angela Watson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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