To relieve a runny or stuffy nose, the following over-the-counter medicines may help:
Decongestants– these may help relieve congestion by shrinking the blood vessels in the lining of the nose. They only help with stuffiness, not a runny nose or other symptoms. Decongestant nasal sprays and drops should not be used for more than 3 days, because then they can make the congestion worse.
Antihistamines– these may reduce the amount of mucus. Be careful, because some antihistamines make people drowsy.
These medicines can make breathing more comfortable, but do not treat the underlying condition. Many over-the-counter allergy and cold medicines contain multiple ingredients, so look carefully to see what is in the one you choose.
Medicines are not the only way to relieve a stuffy or runny nose. Often, gentler solutions are better. Try these steps to thin the mucus, which can help you breathe easier and get your nasal secretions back to normal:
Use gentle saline nasal sprays.
Increase the humidity in the air with a vaporizer or humidifier.
Drink extra fluids. Hot tea, broth, or chicken soup may be especially helpful.
For a baby too young to blow his or her nose, an infant nasal aspirator (bulb) can help remove the mucus. If the mucus is thick and sticky, loosen it by putting 2 or 3 saline nose drops into each nostril. Don't insert cotton swabs into a child's nostrils. Instead, catch the discharge outside the nostril on a tissue or swab, roll it around, and pull the discharge out of the nose.
Congestion is often worse when you are lying down. Keep upright, or at least keep the head elevated. This is especially helpful for young children.