every spring, we live with several aggressive agents that cause nasal congestion. On the one hand, there is the flu, a seasonal (autumn-spring) respiratory infection that annually affects millions of people around the world. The most common symptoms are fever, headache, fatigue, and a stuffy, runny nose. And they can be easily confused with those of other respiratory viruses, especially the common cold, which tends to manifest itself in a milder form.

Also The symptoms of spring allergies are very similar., also known as hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis. In this case, they are not caused by a virus, but by an allergic reaction to pollens released into the air by trees, plants and flowers.

common treatments

When it comes to combating the symptoms of these pathologies, patients often resort to over-the-counter drugs in pharmacies that try to relieve them. The most common are paracetamol, to treat pain and fever; antihistamines such as loratadine, for itchy eyes and throat; and sympathomimetic drugs, which fight congestion and a runny nose.

Within this last therapeutic group are pseudoephedrine, given orally, and oxymetazoline, given nasally. Both mimic or enhance the effects of adrenaline and other similar neurotransmitters. And they produce, as a pharmacological effect, a narrowing of the nasal vessels that gives rise to nasal decongestion.

Are these drugs safe?

Marketing a medicine is a very complicated task for the pharmaceutical industry. Research can take 10 to 15 years and many safety studies must be performed.

Once the drug is marketed, the pharmacovigilance phase begins. This means that it seeks to ensure that the patient uses it safely and effectively. Everyone, including national bodies, companies, healthcare professionals and patients, shares the responsibility for ensuring the safety of medicines.

Pseudoephedrine is a stimulant that can be addictive in some people. When buying these over-the-counter remedies, people may think they are harmless. While it is not common for people to develop dependence on pseudoephedrine, it can happen if used in large amounts. or for a long period of time.

Specifically, prolonged use for more than 5 days may cause a rebound effect in our system generating even more congestion. In this case, the patient tries to increase the dose to counteract these effects and enters a vicious circle. And it can lead to chronic rhinitis when going from use to abuse.

these drugs act on the brain and heart. Therefore, symptoms of abuse include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure. This explains why, recently, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has started to review some drugs that contain pseudoephedrine to decide whether some should be modified, suspended or withdrawn from the market.

Nasal washes with sea water and other alternatives

It is not unreasonable to think that, if the situation permits, it is better to combat nasal congestion with alternatives such as constant hydrationtaking mucolytics such as acetylcysteine, as well as nasal baths with sea water or saline.

In the same way, you can humidify the environment with essential oil diffusers. In case of use of medication, the pharmacist or healthcare professional should guide the patient in the treatment of nasal congestion.

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original.