Cold & Prevention Center

How to Pick an Over-the-Counter Cold Remedy

When you have a cold, it can be hard to sort through the dizzying array of over-the-counter cold medications. Here’s a guide to cold medications for adults (not kids!).

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Nasal decongestants

What they are:
Nasal sprays deliver decongestants such as oxymetazolin (Afrin, Nasin, and others) directly to the nose, which helps clear sinus congestion quickly and effectively.

Reasons to avoid:
Overusing a nasal decongestant (more than five days straight) can lead to dependency, a situation in which you may have a stuffy nose even if you don’t use the spray, Dr. Hueston says. Only use as directed. People with high blood pressure might have to avoid using nasal spray decongestants because they can make the condition worse.

Next: Dangerous combinations

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