Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Upper Respiratory Infections Congestion

Home treatment for congestion with an upper respiratory infection includes: includes general measures and medications. Medications include oral decongestants, decongestant nasal sprays and antihistamines.

General Measures

  • Blow your nose gently. Forceful blowing can cause pain and bleeding.
  • Apply petroleum jelly to the nostrils if the skin becomes dry.
  • Drink plenty of liquids.
  • Place a vaporizer or nebulizer in the bedroom at night.
  • Use saline (saltwater) nose spray, such as Ocean Nasal Mist: saline helps to keep the lining of nasal passages moist. Saline may be used to flush the nasal passages:
    • Lie on your back and tilt your head back.
    • Apply 2- 4 drops of saline in one on nostril, then wait 1 minute.
    • Blow your nose.
    • Repeat in the other nostril.

Oral Decongestants
Oral decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), help to thin the mucus responsible for the congestion. Decongestants are safe for adults and adolescents.

Decongestant precautions:

Decongestant Sprays
Decongestant nasal sprays, such as pseudoephedrine (Afrin) can relieve congestion faster than oral medications.

Examples include:
  • Afrin Nasal Spray
  • Duration Nasal Spray
  • Four-Way Fast Nasal Spray
  • Neo-Synephrine Nasal Spray
  • Vicks Sinex Nasal Spray

Precautions include:
  • Do not use decongestant nasal sprays for longer than 3 days. After three days, the nasal tissues become dependent on the medication. When the medication is stopped, the nasal tissue swells and congestion worsens.

Antihistamines
Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) brompheniramine and chlorpheniramine, dry nasal tissue.

Examples include:

Antihistamine precautions:

Continue to Upper Respiratory Infections Cough

Last Updated: Jan 6, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Upper Respiratory Infections References
  1. Bachert C, Chuchalin AG, Eisebitt R, Netayzhenko VZ, Voelker M. Aspirin compared with acetaminophen in the treatment of fever and other symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection in adults: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, single-dose, 6-hour dose-ranging study. Clin Ther. 2005 Jul;27(7):993-1003. [16154478]
  2. Fahey T, Stocks N, Thomas T. Systematic review of the treatment of upper respiratory tract infection. Arch Dis Child. 1998 Sep;79(3):225-30. [9875017]
  3. Islam J, Carter R. Use of Echinacea in upper respiratory tract infection. South Med J. 2005 Mar;98(3):311-8. [15813158]
  4. Lam TP, Lam KF. Why do family doctors prescribe antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infection? Int J Clin Pract. 2003 Apr;57(3):167-9. [12723716]
  5. Ray DA, Rohren CH. Characteristics of patients with upper respiratory tract infection presenting to a walk-in clinic. Mayo Clin Proc. 2001 Feb;76(2):169-73. [11213305]
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