Decongestants: Can I use this medication?

Many individuals can use decongestants but they are not suitable for everyone. Prior to using decongestants, it is vital to carefully read the packaging instructions for the proper dosage and other essential considerations.

Infants and children

Decongestants must not be given to children below 6 years old and not recommended for children below 12 years old unless prescribed by a doctor.

In case the child has a stuffed nose, it can be relieved by allowing him/her to breathe in steam with added essential oils such as rosemary or eucalyptus. Just make sure the child is under supervision if this is performed due to the accidental risk for scalding.

As for infants, you can place a few drops of saline within the nose before feeding to relieve a stuffed nose. You can readily find saline drops in drugstores and pharmacies.


Decongestants must not be given to children below 6 years old and not recommended for children below 12 years old unless prescribed by a doctor.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

It is still uncertain if decongestants are completely safe to use during pregnancy particularly during the initial 3 months. Using the medication is not recommended unless allowed by the doctor.

Some decongestants such as oxymetazoline are considered safe to use if breastfeeding but others specifically phenylephrine is not recommended. Always read the packaging instructions carefully.

When to avoid decongestants

Always remember that it is not safe to use decongestants if the individual has certain health issues. It is best to set an appointment with a doctor before using decongestants especially if the individual has the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
  • Heart disease or circulatory issues
  • Liver damage such as scarring of the liver (cirrhosis)
  • Kidney disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Been using monoamine oxidase inhibitor (type of antidepressant medication)

A doctor should also be consulted if the individual is already using other medications.

What are the side effects of decongestants?

Decongestants do not often trigger side effects and any of these are likely to the mild. The reported side effects of decongestants include the following:

  • Skin rashes
  • Irritation of the lining of the nose
  • Headaches
  • Feeling sick
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Rapid or erratic heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Issues with sleeping
  • Evident beating of the heart within the chest
  • Difficulty passing urine in men

Take note that these side effects typically pass once the course of medication is finished. The serious and rare side effects include hallucinations and a combination of palpitations, vomiting and headache. This might be due to an abrupt increase in the blood pressure.

If the individual experiences the rare side effects, it is best to stop using the medication and seek medical care. In rare circumstances, the individual can experience a serious allergic reaction or anaphylaxis such as swelling of the throat that can lead to breathing difficulties as well as swelling of the lips and the manifestation of a reddened skin rash. Take note that anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. It is vital to call for emergency assistance right away.


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