Try the new stuff
Most of these remedies contain phenylephrine (look for “PE” on the label), a close cousin of pseudoephedrine that isn’t used to make meth. It won’t last as long as pseudoephedrineyou may need to take it every 4 hoursbut Soller says most people won’t notice a difference. People at risk of heart problems should check with their doctor before using either medicine.
Don’t forget nasal sprays
Neo-Synephrine 4-hour (which has phenylephrine) and Afrin (with longer-lasting oxymetazoline) will clear your stuffy nose in minutes. Soller says they’re safe for the 3 days or so that cold symptoms peak. But longer use can lead to rebound congestion, so don’t overdo it.
Be careful with all-in-ones
Remedies that treat congestion, fever, pain, cough, and allergies (like Comtrex) may seem like wonder drugs, but you might not need so much medicine. It’s best to match your medicines to your symptoms, Soller says. If you don’t have a cough, why take cough medicine? Plus, by alleviating your congestion, a decongestant may help relieve other symptoms.
Drug-free alternatives might help
The number of options can make your head spin, but most won’t unstuff your noggin, Soller says. Your best bet may be saline nasal washes like Ocean or Salinex, which can clear blocked passages and help reduce swelling that makes sinuses ache. (Want to make your own rinse? Mix 1 teaspoon of table salt in a pint of water.) Menthol sprays and rubs won’t drain your sinuses or clear your nose, Soller adds, but their cool, numbing sensation will make you feel better. Plus, you can use them as much like. Just remember to be respectful of anyone downwind.