Over the Counter decongestants can give welcome relief to the pain and discomfort that comes from blocked sinuses and bad colds. They work by reducing the production of secretions and thus relieving the irritation in the nasal passages and facial cavities.
There are several over-the-counter treatments to opt for. The commonest taken by mouth is Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) whilst locally acting nasal sprays usually contain oxymetazoline or xylometazoline. This group of drugs are called sympathomimetics.
Before starting any treatment over the counter it is most important to check that any medicines that are already prescribed for you will not cause unwanted or potentially serious side-effects when used in combination with the counter product.
The most important person to consult at this time is your Pharmacist. Take a list of the medicines that you are currently taking and ask for advice about a suitable over-the-counter decongestant for you. The pharmacist has access to information about interactions and will be happy to advise you.
There are many drugs that have potential to interact with decongestants but there are some which are particularly common interactions and should be avoided.
Adrenergic Neurone Blockers- this group of drugs is sometimes used to treat high blood pressure. They are not commonly used now but when used with Pseudoephedrine they can cause a huge rise in blood pressure.
Antidepressants- some patients taking tricyclic anti-depressants can have a problem with decongestants so they are probably best avoided. However patients taking a Mono-amine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI) must definitely not take decongestants, they are classed as a huge risk of causing a hypertensive crisis.
Beta-blockers- these are commonly used to treat blood pressure. Concomitant use with a decongestant can lead to a rise in blood pressure. This is both due to the medicines interaction together and the fact that decongestants raise blood pressure by themselves.
Antipsychotics, antiepileptic and dopaminergic drugs also have common interactions.
This list is certainly not exhaustive and should be simply taken as an indicator that there are potential problems with many drugs interacting with the decongestants. Expert advice should always be obtained before self-medication if you are already taking medication. The main issues usually occur around blood pressure but this is not the only possible problem. Sometimes a practitioner will recommend using nose-drops as less of the drug is actually absorbed into the body. This does lessen the severity of an interaction but it does not necessarily eliminate it.
So in conclusion, these drugs are very helpful but always check with a medical professional before taking if you are on any other medication or even if you know your blood pressure is high and you are currently untreated.