From the Health Library of “Why would my doctor tell me not to take a decongestant?”


As you struggle from allergies season, the lede is a reasonable question, here is its answer.
Based on how ubiquitous cold and flu remedies are, you would think they were the safest medications known to man. That’s actually not the case and in some instances can be quite far from the truth. The reason for this is simple. Decongestants work by manipulating blood vessels. Specifically, they narrow nasal blood vessels, creating more room for air flow and mucous drainage while reducing swelling and other effects of inflammation. This is a major part of how you treat upper respiratory viral infections like colds and the flu; antibiotics don’t work against viruses.
Unfortunately, if you have certain medical issues, you should not take decongestants. Here’s a list of situations that can make it dangerous to take decongestants:

  • Allergies to pseudo-ephedrine
  • Children under age 4
  • Diabetes
  • Glaucoma
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Prostate disease
  • Pregnant
  • Breast feeding women
  • Thyroid disease

So … even if it’s an over the counter preparation, if you’re not sure, head over to the pharmacist before you make that purchase at the store. Of course, you can always connect with your consultant as well.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
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