What the drug does:
Constricts the blood vessels in the nose and sinuses, reducing the swelling of the tissues. May help dry out the mucus. These drugs are stimulants and come in tablets, sprays and drops.
Phenylephrine offers fast action with a little buzz; pseudoephedrine is mellower but slower to kick in. Other decongestants include oxymetazoline and tetrahydrozoline.
Who should avoid:
Pregnant or nursing women; anyone with heart problems, high blood pressure, overactive thyroid, glaucoma or diabetes. Don't take decongestants with asthma medications or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs); you may alter the actions of the drugs or increase the risk of side effects.