Allergies Pollen Decongestants

Many people experience hay fever every spring, summer or fall as a result of increased pollen in the air. Hay fever, medically known as allergic rhinitis, can cause people to experience a number of unpleasant side effects that need to be treated by medications. Although no cure for allergic rhinitis is currently available, many medications and holistic approaches are very successful at managing unpleasant symptoms.

About Allergic Rhinitis and Pollination

Allergic rhinitis is a result of vegetation beginning its pollination process. During the spring, summer and fall, plants release tiny pollen particles that become airborne. Although they are meant to fertilize other plants, in some cases, they become lodged in people’s nasal passages or respiratory tracts, causing allergic rhinitis, or hay fever.

In response to the presence of allergens, the body utilizes immunoglobulin (IgE) antibodies to fight the allergens. The amount of IgE antibodies varies within each person, explaining why some are more sensitive to allergens than others.

While the IgE antibodies fight off the allergens, other immune system cells, known as mast cells, are damaged. Damaged mast cells release a combination of irritating chemicals that is referred to as histamine, which cause allergic symptoms.

Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis

Histamines cause a variety of allergic symptoms, including:

  • itchy eyes
  • nasal congestion and stuffiness
  • red, irritated eyes
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • watery eyes.

People may experience one or several of the above symptoms, depending on the amount of IgE antibodies in their bodies and the type of allergen they encountered.

Treating Allergic Rhinitis with Decongestants

One of the most commonly used medications to treat the symptoms of allergic rhinitis is a decongestant, which treats stuffiness. Because decongestants primarily treat congestion, many people use decongestants in conjunction with antihistamines to address all of their symptoms.

Histamines cause tissues and blood vessels in the nasal passage to swell, causing nasal congestion and/or runny nose. Decongestants shrink swollen tissues and blood vessels to alleviate congestion and excess mucous secretion.

Decongestants come in a variety of forms, including nasal sprays, nose drops, liquids or pills; however, it is important for people to note to use nasal sprays or nose drops for no more than three days, as it could cause adverse side effects.

Prolonged use of nasal sprays or nose drops can cause “rebound congestion,” a condition that causes symptoms to become worse with each use of the medication. Typically, the condition heals on its own after people discontinue use of the medication.

In addition, physicians generally discourage the use of liquid or pill decongestants for more than seven days. People who require decongestants for longer than seven days should contact their physicians.

Many people with stuffiness prefer using a nasal decongestant spray, as it is effective within 10 to 15 minutes, and the results can last for up to 12 hours. Liquid or pill forms of decongestants work within 30 minutes, and provide relief for about six hours.

People who suffer from allergic rhinitis usually enjoy a great improvement in congestion after the use of nasal decongestants; however, it may take several “trial and errors” before they find the most effective nasal decongestant for them.

Side Effects and Other Concerns with Decongestants

Decongestants can cause a variety of adverse side effects. Nasal sprays or nose drops may cause patients to experience:

  • dryness
  • sneezing
  • stinging
  • temporary burning.

Common side effects of oral decongestants are:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • excitability
  • headache
  • nausea
  • nervousness
  • restlessness
  • sleep problems
  • weakness.

These side effects usually stop after the person discontinues the use of the medication.

Because of the possible side effects and complications, people with the following conditions are discouraged from using decongestants:

  • breastfeeding
  • diabetes
  • enlarged prostate
  • heart or blood vessel disease
  • high blood pressure
  • overactive thyroid
  • pregnancy
  • unusual reactions to decongestants.

Alternative Treatments to Decongestants

People with stuffiness or runny noses may benefit from other treatments than decongestants. Many say that drinking hot tea or eating hot soup lessens congestion. Others have had success with adhesive nose strips that widen nasal passages or saline (salt water) nasal sprays.

With so many available options for patients, congestion and stuffiness can be treated easily and affordably, causing great relief for congested patients.


Golonka, D. (2007). Decongestants for allergic rhinitis. Retrieved on March 14, 2009, from the Health.Yahoo Web site—hw118335.html.

Nazario, B., M.D. (2008). Allergy medications. Retrieved on March 14, 2009, from the WebMD Web site

Swartout-Corbeil, D. (2006). Decongestants. Retrieved on March 14, 2009, from the HealthAtoZ Web site