Consult Your Pharmacist - BP Effects of Nasal Decongestants

US Pharmacist. 2000;25(2) 

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Patient Information

Are nasal decongestants Safe for you?

Nasal congestion is a common problem, often occurring as a part of the common cold. It is also a symptom of "hay fever" (or allergic rhinitis). If you have nasal congestion, you may consider trying several products, such as nasal decongestant drops, sprays or inhalers; small strips which fit over the bridge of the nose and help keep nasal passages open; saline drops or sprays; or oral decongestants, including tablets and capsules for adults and syrups or drops for younger patients. Such products can be purchased without a prescription. However, this does not mean that they are safe for everyone. Who Should Not Use Decongestants?

If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, you should not use nasal decongestants without your doctor's advice. Decongestants relieve the symptoms of nasal and sinus congestion by constricting blood vessels in the nose, but they can also constrict blood vessels in other parts of the body. This can increase blood pressure and make the heart work harder.

There are other groups of patients who also should not use nasal decongestants. Because these drugs can alter blood glucose, diabetic patients should not use them. Patients with thyroid disease should avoid them because they may have adverse reactions. Nasal decongestants can cause difficulty in urination,
so patients who already have difficulty due to an enlarged prostate should not use them. As with any over-the-counter medication, you should read the label carefully before choosing a nasal decongestant. Each is required to carry warnings regarding the conditions mentioned above. When looking for medications that do not contain nasal decongestants, avoid anything with ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, phenylpropanolamine, phenylephrine and oxymetazoline. Products for colds and allergies that do not contain decongestants include Coricidin HBP, Chlor-Trimeton, Benadryl and Tavist-1.

Drug Interactions: When taking an oral nasal decongestant, avoid taking any allergy, asthma, cough-cold, or weight control product containing phenylpropanolamine, pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, or ephedrine along with it. Also, avoid other stimulants, such as caffeine. If you are taking MAOI drugs for depression (tranylcypromine sulfate/Parnate and phenelzine sulfate/Nardil) or if it has been two weeks or less since you last took them, do not take decongestants.

Be especially cautious of herbal products or so-called "natural" remedies that contain ma huang, ephedra, guarana or kola nut. These ingredients may cause serious adverse reactions when taken with nasal decongestants.

If you have any doubt as to whether a product is safe for you, consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Nasal decongestants are intended to treat short-term problems. Generally, drops and sprays should not be used for more than three days, and oral decongestants not more than seven. If congestion persists, see your doctor.

Remember, if you have questions, Consult Your Pharmacist.

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