Sinus congestion is a common problem during cold and allergy season. We often turn to medications such as pseudoephedrine or Sudafed for temporary relief. However, Sudafed is not for everyone. It shouldn’t be taken by infants and children, pregnant women, and those with heart problems. It can also cause side effects like drowsiness and nausea. Fortunately, there are safe and effective over-the-counter alternatives you can try.
Some decongestants can be applied topically or directly through nasal sprays or drops. Look for products that contain oxymetazoline like Afrin, Vicks, And Zicam. These medications help clear nasal and sinus congestion with very few side effects. They work by reducing the inflammation in your sinus cavity, which brings down the swelling and drainage. When taking these products, always follow the instructions carefully. Topical decongestants should never be used more than five days in a row, to avoid the risk of rebound decongestion. They are not intended for infants, pregnant women, or those with high blood pressure.
Histamine production is part of your body’s immune response to foreign pathogens. It stimulates mucus production in the sinuses. Antihistamines work by blocking the action of histamine, thereby reducing nasal congestion. These products are ideally taken on a regular schedule to work effectively. They can be taken to treat congestion caused by colds, flu, or allergies. There are several types of antihistamines, read the label carefully to find out the proper dosage and schedule.
Saline Sprays or Drops
These are effective, natural, non-medicated alternatives to decongestants. Saline, a solution of salt and water, relieves congestion by thinning the mucus in the sinus cavities. It can be used as often as necessary and is safe for everyone, even infants.
Saline irrigation offers a more complete cleansing of the nasal passages than sprays or drops. Irrigation flushes sinus cavities and nasal passages using larger quantities of saline solution. This process helps dissolve mucus and relieves nasal congestion. This may not be as convenient as sprays or drops because it requires a sink or basin to catch the used solution. You can choose from several saline solution products available in the market or you can make one at home. Irrigation involves flushing the solution into one nostril, letting it flow through the sinus cavities, and letting it out the other nostril.
Steam or Water Vapor
Congestion can be relieved by hot or cool water vapor from a shower, humidifier, or vaporizer. Inhaling moisturized air may not be as effective as saline irrigation, but it can help prevent mucus from becoming too thick. You also need to stay properly hydrated to help keep nasal mucus thin enough to be easily removed.