Fed Up with Being Stuffed Up: Help for Nasal Congestion

Greta M. Pelegrin, PharmD, and Gabriela Girola, PharmD Candidate
Published Online: Saturday, October 1, 2005

Nasal congestion (or "stuffy nose") is probably the most common symptom of a cold or allergies. The nasal passages are inside the nose and are lined with membranes that have many arteries, veins, and capillaries. When irritants or "foreign invaders" come into contact with the nasal linings, the blood vessels of the nose expand, and the membranes fill with excess blood, resulting in redness, swelling, and stuffiness. This swelling makes it hard to breathe because it blocks the normal flow of air.

What Impact Does Nasal Congestion Have on Our Lives?

Nasal congestion may be caused by the common cold or flu, seasonal or chronic allergies, or even a sinus infection. Nasal congestion can cause minor problems, such as dry mouth and a sore nose, and more serious issues, such as problems with hearing. The most bothersome problem associated with nasal congestion may be how it can interfere with our ability to get a good night?s sleep. Poor sleep caused by congestion, swelling, and an inability to breathe adequately at night has serious consequences. It can result in accidents, both at school and at work or while driving. Inadequate sleep has been linked to a decrease in physical and mental performance, as well as an increase in memory lapses and behavior and mood problems.1-4

Treatment for Nasal Congestion

Fortunately, many treatment options are available for nasal congestion. A nasal aspirator for children can help clear mucus. Nasal moisturizers and nasal sprays with saline usually are safe for use in children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Increasing the humidity of the air with vaporizers or humidifiers also can be helpful, and a menthol product can be added to the vaporizer to reduce congestion and ease breathing. Because congestion is worse when you are lying down, it is best to keep your head slightly upright or elevated when sleeping.

Oral Decongestants

Oral decongestants such as phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine are contained in over-the-counter cold products as well as in prescription medications. They help relieve congestion by shrinking blood vessels in the lining inside the nose. They are commonly taken with an antihistamine for allergies because they do not provide relief for allergy symptoms. Side effects associated with these drugs include nervousness, irritability, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and palpitations. The stimulation caused by oral decongestants can interfere with sleep, so they are not recommended for use at bedtime. They also can interfere with urinary flow in men. People with heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, diabetes, or Parkinson?s disease should avoid these drugs because they can aggravate those conditions. Because they can hurt a developing fetus, their use by women who are pregnant is not recommended without consulting a physician.5-7

Topical Decongestants

Other decongestants include nasal sprays and drops, which can temporarily relieve congestion. Although side effects are not as frequent as with oral drugs, topical decongestants may cause irritation to the area. Also, these products should be used for no more than 3 days because using them beyond this time may result in rebound congestion. This is a common problem where a continual nasal congestion develops that improves only when additional drops are used. Ultimately, the congestion becomes worse despite the frequent doses. Then the decongestant must be stopped so that the nasal passageway can return to normal. This process may take 2 to 3 days, during which time saline or nasal strips may be used to alleviate the symptoms.6,8-12

Nasal Strips

The use of nasal strips, such as Breathe Right nasal strips, is an excellent option for those with nasal congestion. Breathe Right nasal strips work immediately to relieve congestion by opening nasal passages for better breathing. Each strip consists of 2 parallel bands of flexible plastic embedded in a special pad and is secured to the skin between the bridge and the tip of the nose. The strip gently lifts the outside of the nose to open the nasal valve, which is the narrowest part of the nasal passageway, thereby improving airflow.

Breathe Right nasal strips can be used for up to 12 hours at a time, day or night, for immediate long-lasting relief. The strips are drug-free - so you need not worry about drug interactions making a preexisting medical condition (such as high blood pressure or diabetes) worse, or about drug side effects. The strips are available in 2 sizes (most people use the small/medium size), in original tan, clear for sensitive skin, and mentholated vapor strips for those who prefer the soothing effects of menthol.

Studies on Breathe Right nasal strips have appeared in many publications reviewed by experts in the field. These studies have consistently shown that the strips improve airway resistance and minimize snoring. These nasal strips are recommended by many pharmacists as a safe and effective drug-free treatment to alleviate bothersome congestion and snoring associated with colds and allergies.

Conclusion

Many medications and drug-free alternatives are available to treat nasal congestion. Important steps include determining the cause of the congestion and selecting a treatment that is of benefit with minimal risk. The ultimate goal is to minimize the congestion and improve breathing. Better breathing will lead to better sleep, which in turn will lead to better health.

Benefits of Breathe Right Nasal Strips for Nasal Congestion

? Safe for use with other medications

? Safe for use with underlying health conditions

? Minimal side effects

? Immediate therapeutic effect

? No nasal rebound (or worsening of congestion)

? Non?habit-forming



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