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Decongestants for Snoring

Examples

Many over-the-counter decongestants are available to treat snoring. The following are a few examples:

Generic Name Brand Name
oxymetazoline Afrin
phenylephrine Neo-Synephrine
pseudoephedrine Sudafed

Some decongestants are sprayed into the nose. Others are taken in pill form.

In some states, medicines containing pseudoephedrine (such as Sudafed) are kept behind the pharmacist's counter or require a prescription. You may need to ask the pharmacist for it or have a prescription from your doctor to buy the medicine. The amount of decongestant you can buy at one time also may be limited.

How It Works

Decongestants narrow blood vessels, reducing the blood supply to nasal mucous membranes. This reduces nasal congestion. If snoring is caused by nasal congestion, snoring may be reduced.

  • Oral decongestants not only narrow blood vessels in the nose, they also narrow blood vessels in other parts of the body, which can cause side effects such as high blood pressure and nervousness.
  • Nasal decongestant sprays narrow blood vessels only in the nose and not in other parts of the body, so they rarely cause the side effects that oral decongestants do. But you can only use nasal decongestants for a few days. Using them longer than this can lead to rebound congestion, a condition in which the decongestant causes initial relief followed by nasal congestion that gets worse. Using a nasal decongestant continually to avoid rebound congestion can result in a dependence on the medicine.

Why It Is Used

Decongestants are used for nasal congestion. Nasal congestion may contribute to snoring, so using decongestants may help reduce snoring.

How Well It Works

Nasal spray decongestants work within about 10 minutes and may relieve nasal congestion for up to 12 hours. Oral decongestants work within 30 minutes and may relieve nasal congestion for up to 6 hours. If you can reduce the amount of nasal congestion, you may be able to reduce your snoring.

Purchased or homemade saltwater (saline) nasal sprays may also help clear up a stuffy nose. See information on cleaning your nasal passages with salt water.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Difficult or painful urination.
  • Headache.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Nervousness or restlessness.
  • Trouble sleeping.

If too much nasal decongestant spray is used or if it is used for too long a time, rebound congestion may occur between uses or after use is stopped.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Decongestant nasal sprays should be used only for short periods of time (not more than 3 days in a row).

Many nonprescription preparations for other health problems, such as some diet pills, contain decongestants. To avoid a possible overdose, do not take two medicines that contain decongestants at the same time.

Be careful with these medicines. They may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems, so check the label first. If you do use these medicines, always follow the directions about how much to use based on age and weight.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Mark A. Rasmus, MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine
Last Revised May 14, 2012

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