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Decongestants, also called nasal decongestants, are a type of pharmaceutical drug that can come in the form of pills, nasal sprays, nose drops, or other liquids. These decongestants, which can be bought over the counter without prescription usually contain pseudoephedrine. Decongestants work by reducing the swelling in the passageways of the nose and shrinking theese swollen blood vessels and tissues. Consequently, this improves air flow and relieves the nasal congestion in the upper respiratory tract. Although most decongestants work for the upper respiratory tract, some brands can relieve congestion and pressure in the head, nose, and ears. Others can also be used for itchy, watery eyes, and eye redness.

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These decongestants are similar to antihistamines, in that both can relieve runny noses and effects of cold, but not sneezing and itching. However, antihistamines are mainly used for suppressing allergic reactions to pollen, pet dander, and even dust mites, because it blocks the chemical histamine, which makes the tissues in the nose itch and swell. Possible side effects of taking antihistamines include nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and having trouble urinating for adults, and restlessness or moodiness in children.

Before taking decongestants, one should make sure to consult a doctor if they have the eye disorder glaucoma, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, heart conditions, and diabetes. One should also be mindful of their caffeine intake when taking decongestants. Decongestants in the form of nasal sprays shouldn’t be used for longer than three straight days, as it may actually lead to the nose becoming more blocked. Side effects for decongestants include feeling jittery, experiencing headaches, dry mouth, and dizziness, and either experiencing drowsiness or having trouble sleeping. A rarer but more serious side effect is the increase in blood pressure. One should make sure their decongestant doesn’t interfere with their other medications.

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