One of the most annoying symptoms associated with hay fever or pollen allergies is nasal congestion. Runny noses and stuffy noses are hard to tolerate, especially when you have to get on with your day. Since allergies affect a large portion of the human population, antihistamines and decongestants are popular medications on the drug store shelves. Antihistamines work by blocking the histamines released by the body in response to an invader. Decongestants are medications that work in an entirely different manner.
During an allergic response, the histamines can cause increased blood supply to the nose or any area where histamines are present. Decongestants do not block or change the histamine production in any way. These medications actually shrink the blood vessels that supply blood to the nose. This, in turn, helps to shrink the swollen membranes that cause nasal congestion. Decongestants can also help to dry the nasal passages, leading to less mucus. Decongestants can make allergy symptoms feel less painful by slowing the rate of nasal discharge and giving you time to recover between sneezes. Decongestants do not stop or slow the allergic reaction and are most often prescribed for cold or flu symptoms rather than for allergy symptoms.
A decongestant comes in several forms including tablet form, liquid form and nasal spray form. Decongestants can be found in many combination cold medications so it is essential to read the label before adding a decongestant to your cold medication. A decongestant might be useful for allergy sufferers when an antihistamine does not relieve all of the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Since it does not stop the allergic reaction, decongestants are often used in addition to the antihistamine. They can be found in combination allergy medications. Tablet and liquid decongestants are the most commonly prescribed form of this medication. Nasal sprays are remarkably effective for relieving nasal congestion but are extremely likely to cause dependence. This means that using a nasal spray for nasal congestion can actually worsen the congestion over a period of time. This is called a rebound congestion and it often requires treatment with another medication.
Decongestants can be found in prescription strengths and in non-prescription strengths. They can be purchased in most drug stores and grocery stores, over-the-counter, depending on the strength.
Today's newer decongestants do come with some side effects including dry mouth and sore throat. They are also known to interact with blood pressure medications and antidepressants, making them unusable for people with these health issues. Decongestants can also cause dizziness and sleeplessness in rare cases.
Using a decongestant might help to alleviate some of your allergy symptoms but it is best to check with a physician before adding this medication to your allergy routine.