- Best OTC Sinus Decongestant For Allergies: Benadryl Allergy Plus decongestant ultratabs
- Best OTC Sinus Decongestant For Headache: Advil sinus congestion and pain
- Best OTC Sinus Decongestant Nasal Spray: Afrin no-drip heavy traffic jams
- Best OTC Sinus Decongestant For Children: Little Remedies Decongestant Nasal Drops
- Best OTC Sinus Decongestant Day / Night Duo: Sudafed PE day and night sinus pressure tablets
- Best OTC Sinus Decongestant on a Budget: Cabinet nasal decongestant tablets
- Best OTC Sinus Decongestant For Bedtime: Mucinex Night Shift Cold and Flu
Sinus decongestants are products that can relieve pressure in the head and nose. If you have difficulty breathing from a cold, flu, or allergies, these products are designed to relieve your symptoms and help you get on with your day. These drugs are available over the counter at affordable prices, but that doesn’t always make it easy to choose the one that works best for you.
Every over-the-counter (OTC) decongestant formula is different. Some target multiple symptoms and bring together multiple active ingredients. Others are simply supposed to relieve nasal congestion caused by allergies. Some can make you sleepy while others make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Knowing the difference between these products will help you choose the best product for your symptoms and situation.
We’ve rounded up the best decongestants you can buy over the counter to help you make a decision.
- Customer ratings. We chose products that have received good ratings based on hundreds of verified reviews on customer trust.
- Transparency. We looked for products and brands that make realistic, medically sound statements about their products.
- Clinical studies and peer-reviewed literature. We read what doctors and researchers have observed about various active ingredients available on the market.
Best OTC Sinus Decongestant For Allergies
Benadryl Allergy Plus Congestion Ultratabs
- What we liked: These tablets contain diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that combats allergy symptoms, and phenylephrine, which reduces sinus congestion. You can take one of these tablets every 4 hours throughout the day, and reviewers find that they work relatively quickly.
- What you should know: These tablets are not intended to fight the flu or cold, so they should only be taken if your sinus congestion is caused by allergies. You should also be aware that diphenhydramine can make you quite drowsy. Therefore, avoid this drug on days when you need to be vigilant.
Best OTC Sinus Headache Decongestant
Advil sinus congestion and pain
- What we liked: These coated tablets contain the proven decongestant phenylephrine together with the pain reliever ibuprofen. You can take one tablet up to every four hours. The combination of the nasal swelling relief along with the pain reliever medications can quickly relieve many sinus-related headaches. Many reviewers, who suffer from frequent sinus headaches, swear that this product is even better than some prescription drugs.
- What you should know: Make sure to keep track of the amount of ibuprofen that you are taking when using this product. Do not take extra pain relievers such as acetaminophen or aspirin with this product unless directed to do so by a doctor. It is easy to end up taking a dose higher than recommended for analgesics when mixing medications.
Best OTC Sinus Decongestant Nasal Spray
Afrin no-drip heavy traffic jams
- What we liked: Nasal sprays like Afrin shrink swollen nasal passages by applying an active ingredient directly to your sinuses. This has the advantage that sprays tend to work faster than tablets or liquid decongestants. Afrins Spray contains oxymetazoline hydrochloride as well as menthol, which according to reviewers, instantly relaxes and refreshes your nasal passages.
- What you should know: Afrin should only be used temporarily to relieve sinus blockage. Rebound stiffness can occur in as little as 3 days.
Best OTC Sinus Decongestant For Children
Little Remedies Decongestant Nasal Drops
- What we liked: These dye-free drops contain phenylephrine in a dosage that is safe for children 2 years and older. The dropper dose formula can be applied 2 to 3 drops at a time directly to the nasal passages for quick relief. (No waiting for tablets to kick in before bed). This decongestant can work for symptoms of a cold or flu, or it can be used to treat congestion caused by allergies.
- What you should know: Getting the little ones to sit still and let the drops apply to their noses can be difficult. You might be luckier if you put the formula in a spray bottle or other mist-based bottle to get your child to cooperate.
Best OTC decongestant day / night duo
Sudafed PE day and night sinus pressure tablets
- What we liked: These tablets contain phenylephrine to relieve sinus congestion during the day and an additional antihistamine agent for the night. These ingredients can treat environmental allergies as well as constipation from colds. There are 12 tablets for day use and 8 for night, which means you can take a few extra tablets during the day if you need them, but stick with one right before bed when you are ready to sleep.
- What you should know: There is no pain reliever ingredient in either the day or night formula of these tablets. This means that if you have a headache and treating your sinus pressure doesn’t bring relief, you can still reach for acetaminophen at the end of the day.
Best OTC Sinus Decongestant on a Budget
Cabinet nasal decongestant tablets
- What we liked: This mega-container of 225 tablets is a great solution if several people in your family are prone to allergies or sinus headaches. The no-frills phenylephrine formula is comparable to the dosage you would find with a brand name, but at a fraction of the cost. There is nothing in the formula to make you drowsy, and you can take one tablet every 4 hours on days when symptoms hit you hard.
- What you should know: Some customers complained that the bottle was too big to fit in their medicine cabinet, which seems like a minor complaint for a product with frequent use. This particular tablet only targets sinus congestion and therefore does not relieve symptoms such as fever or cough.
Best OTC medicine for bedtime
Mucinex Nightshift cold and flu fluid
- What we liked: This liquid formula contains a pain reliever, a cough suppressant, and an antihistamine ingredient that work together to help you get a good night’s sleep when you are sick. It doesn’t contain a decongestant, however, so keep that in mind when using this treatment. It’s great for bedtime as it tames fits of coughing that can keep you up at night. Although it doesn’t contain a decongestant, the antihistamine ingredient can also reduce nasal congestion caused by seasonal allergies.
- What you should know: Unlike the other decongestants on this list, this product does not contain anything that dissolves phlegm. Some reviewers find that they really don’t like the taste of this drug.
When figuring out which decongestant to buy, it is important to determine what is causing your congestion. When it comes to allergies, you probably want a product that has an antihistamine ingredient like diphenhydramine.
If you have cold or flu symptoms, you may be looking for a product that contains phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine. Some OTC sinus decongestant formulas contain both antihistamines and decongestant ingredients, and some add pain reliever ingredients like ibuprofen to their formula. Don’t treat symptoms you have for additional symptoms you don’t have.
Can / should I take a sinus decongestant if I have a sinus infection?
You may take certain decongestants for sinus infections. Decongestants that contain only pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine are more likely to be recommended for sinus infections. Decongestants with added ingredients, such as antihistamines, can suppress your body’s immune response and affect your body’s ability to fight the infection. If you have severe sinus infection or are taking antibiotics, consult your doctor to determine the best OTC medication choice for you.
Do sinus decongestants work for ear clogging?
Decongestant sinuses can relieve pressure in the upper sinuses. If you have an ear blockage, relieving that pressure can help relieve your pain. But decongestant sinus infections cannot treat an underlying ear infection.
Is It Safe To Use Sinus Decongestant During Pregnancy?
It depends on the active ingredient. OTC pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine should only be used during pregnancy under the supervision of your doctor. They are category C drugs and should not be used during the first trimester, but only later on the doctor’s recommendation.
Can you take sinus decongestants if you have high blood pressure?
Phenylephrine is not considered safe if you have high blood pressure. Sinus decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine can actually increase your blood pressure and counteract blood pressure medications that you are taking. If you have high blood pressure, you should talk to your doctor about which decongestant they recommend.
The best way to choose an OTC decongestant is to look at the active ingredients. A good decongestant should only treat the symptoms that you have and not additional symptoms that you don’t have. OTC decongestants are not a solution for severe, long-lasting sinus infections and chronic allergies. If you find over-the-counter decongestants are not effectively treating your symptoms, you may need to discuss a long-term strategy with your doctor.