The 8 Best Medicines for a Stuffy Nose of 2021

Put down the tissue box and start breathing easy

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First Look

Best Overall: Mucinex Sinus Max Severe Congestion & Pain at Amazon

"Triple threat of stuffy nose treatments may reduce your congestion and uncomfortable symptoms that come along with it."

Best Budget: Equate Congestion Suphedrine PE Nasal Decongestant at Walmart

"Non-drowsy formula is ideal for daytime use."

Best for Sinus Headaches: Advil Sinus Congestion & Pain Relief at Amazon

"Sinus headaches don’t stand a chance."

Best for Cough: Robitussin Severe CF Maximum Strength Cold, Cough & Flu at Amazon

"Active ingredients include acetaminophen for pain, phenylephrine for your stuffy nose, and guaifenesin and dextromethorphan to treat your cough."

Best Spray: Mucinex Sinus Max Nasal Spray at Amazon

"Concentrated vapor burst delivers its active ingredients right to your inflamed nasal tissues."

Best for Babies: NoseFrida The SnotSucker Baby Nasal Saline Kit at Amazon

"A doctor-invented aspirator that clears your baby’s nasal passages, helping them breathe better while they sleep, play, and eat."

Best for Flu: Vicks DayQuil Cold & Flu Multi-Symptom Relief at Amazon

"These liquid capsules relieve six different symptoms of cold and flu."

Best for Nighttime: Vicks NyQuil Severe Cough Cold & Flu Nighttime Relief at Amazon

"An old standby that helps you get the rest your immune system needs to fight off your stuffy nose."

If you regularly suffer from a stuffy nose while fighting off a cold or the flu, you will likely benefit from an OTC nasal decongestant. Congestion in the nose is caused by two major factors: enlarged blood vessels in the nose and excess mucus in the airways. Nasal decongestants work by shrinking the blood vessels in the nose to help open the airway. There are decongestants that primarily target excessive mucus as well as some that work to combat both symptoms.

While OTC medicines are a great place to start when you're feeling under the weather, you should always consult your doctor if your condition gets worse or if you have any concerns about how your OTC decongestant will interact with other medications you're taking.

Here are the best nasal decongestant medications on the market today.

Due to increased demand for online shopping, items in this article may be out of stock. Updates to this article will be made frequently with products we recommend.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Mucinex Sinus Max Severe Congestion & Pain

To defeat severe congestion that’s interfering with your day, you need a powerful medication that won’t let you down. Mucinex’s Sinus Max is an over-the-counter tablet that attacks congestion and several other symptoms associated with stuffy noses.

These tablets contain phenylephrine, an ingredient used to relieve nasal discomfort associated with congestion and other conditions. It also has acetaminophen, an effective pain reliever, as well as guaifenesin, which is used to help clear mucus that may drip down the back of your throat and get caught in your lungs. This triple threat of stuffy nose treatments may reduce your congestion and uncomfortable symptoms that come along with it.

Best Budget: Equate Congestion Suphedrine PE Nasal Decongestant

Equate Suphedrine PE

 Courtesy of Walmart

If you’re dealing with a stuffy nose that’s affecting your productivity, but you don’t want to spend a lot to clear it up, Equate’s Congestion medication offers the same effectiveness as name brand medications in a budget-friendly tablet. Equate’s medication contains 10 mg of phenylephrine, the same effective active ingredient that’s found in name-brand decongestants. The non-drowsy formula is ideal for daytime use.

Best for Sinus Headaches: Advil Sinus Congestion & Pain Relief

Stuffy noses and sinus headaches often go hand in hand. When the tissues in your nose swell up from congestion, it can put pressure on your sinus cavities. Nasal discharge can also irritate your sinuses, setting the stage for a distracting, painful sinus headache. Luckily, there are over-the-counter options that can relieve the pressure and pain from sinus headaches, and Advil’s Sinus Congestion & Pain Relief is up to the task.

Sinus headaches don’t stand a chance against this over-the-counter medication. It contains ibuprofen, an NSAID used to treat mild to moderate pain and swelling. Phenylephrine also makes an appearance in this stuffy nose treatment, reducing congestion that causes pressure in your sinus cavities.

Best for Cough: Robitussin Severe CF Maximum Strength Cold, Cough & Flu

It’s not uncommon to experience a cough alongside your stuffy nose. Post-nasal drip occurs when the fluid from your stuffy nose runs down the back of your throat. If it drains into your lungs, your body will start coughing to try and get it out. Robitussin’s Severe CF Maximum Strength Liquid helps relieve congestion and quiet your cough.

This medication’s active ingredients include acetaminophen for pain, phenylephrine for your stuffy nose, and guaifenesin and dextromethorphan to treat your cough. Guaifenesin thins and loosens the mucus in your airways to help you breathe easier without coughing, and dextromethorphan suppresses your cough so you can get on with your day.

Best Spray: Mucinex Sinus Max Nasal Spray

Mucinex Sinus-Max

 Courtesy of Amazon

If you’re struggling with a stuffy nose but don’t want to take a pill to treat it, Mucinex’s Sinus Max Clear and Cool Nasal Spray offers instant relief with a refreshing menthol twist.

This powerful spray contains oxymetazoline, a common decongestant in nasal sprays that’s been proven to reduce swelling and stuffiness in your nose. The spray’s concentrated vapor burst delivers its active ingredients right to your inflamed nasal tissues—you’ll notice a refreshing blast of menthol right after you use it. It offers relief from your stuffy nose for up to 12 hours, so you won’t have to re-spray throughout the day.

Best for Babies: NoseFrida The SnotSucker Baby Nasal Saline Kit

Stuffy noses are frustrating for adults, but babies have it even tougher. They’re unable to blow their noses, so they’re stuck with congestion that may affect their breathing and make feedings more difficult. Luckily, you can help your little one out with NoseFrida’s SnotSucker Baby Nasal Saline Kit.

This kit raises some eyebrows with a name like “SnotSucker,” but the user-friendly device is well worth it. It’s a doctor-invented aspirator that clears your baby’s nasal passages, helping them breathe better while they sleep, play, and eat. First, you’ll soften your baby’s mucus with a gentle saline mist, then place the tube against your baby’s nasal passage to form a seal.

You can gently use your mouth to suck the congestion out from the other side of the tube—but don’t worry, there’s a hygiene filter to keep your baby’s boogers away from your mouth.

Best for Flu: Vicks DayQuil Cold & Flu Multi-Symptom Relief

Having a sore throat on top of a stuffy nose can make it harder to get through your day. Vicks DayQuil Cold & Flu Multi-Symptom Relief is a non-drowsy medication that tackles both.

These liquid capsules relieve six different symptoms of colds and flus, but they’re especially effective on stuffy noses and sore throats. Acetaminophen takes care of the pain associated with your sore throat, while phenylephrine dries up mucus in your nose and reduces swelling. The liquid capsule format releases the medication more quickly than a tablet, and spares the mess of a liquid formula.

Best for Nighttime: Vicks NyQuil Severe Cough Cold & Flu Nighttime Relief

A stuffy nose doesn’t just slow you down during the day—it can also affect the quality of your sleep. You can’t breathe through your nose as well when it’s stuffed up, and that can cause nighttime awakenings. NyQuil is an old standby that helps you get the rest your immune system needs to fight off your stuffy nose.

Nyquil’s Severe formula contains an antihistamine to relieve itchiness and congestion. It also promotes drowsiness, reducing the number of times you have to wake up and blow your nose during the night. This formula has a cough suppressant and a mild pain reliever, so you can catch up on your sleep despite your stuffy nose.

Final Verdict

When you're feeling under the weather and your stuffy nose is making it hard to go about your day, Mucinex Sinus Max Severe Congestion & Pain is a great first line of defense to help loosen the mucus in your nose and throat. If your stuffy nose is keeping you up at night, try Vicks NyQuil Severe Cough Cold & Flu Nighttime Relief to help you sleep while reducing your symptoms.

What to Look for in a Medicine for a Stuffy Nose

Drowsy vs. Non-Drowsy:

When looking for an OTC medicine to treat your stuffy nose symptoms, be wary of the ingredients—especially medications that include antihistamines, which can cause drowsiness. If you're looking for a sleep-friendly medicine, an original formula (one that includes antihistamines or does not specify that it's non-drowsy) is perfect to help you get a good night's sleep.

Ingredients:

Pay close attention to the ingredients listed on your OTC congestion medication and ask your doctor if they will interact with any other prescription medications you're taking. Phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine are common ingredients in many popular decongestants, but can also come with side effects to look out for. If you're taking your decongestant to help you sleep through the night, opt for a medication with antihistamines.

Form:

Most decongestants can be found in oral pill form, but nasal sprays are another common way to help clear a stuffy nose. If you're treating a young child for congestion, a nasal spray or an aspirator that removes mucus is your best bet.

Why Trust Verywell Health?

Abby Stassen went to the University of Michigan where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English Language & Literature. Her writing has been featured in the Orlando Weekly and Windermere Scene magazines. 

Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular medicines on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 17 different medicines overall, screened options from 13 different brands and manufacturers, read over 24 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 5 of the medicines themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Phenylephrine. Updated August 15, 2018.

  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Acetaminophen information. Updated November 11, 2017.

  3. Mayo Clinic. Guaifenesin (oral route). Updated February 1, 2021.

  4. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. Treatments for post-nasal drip. Updated February 6, 2020.

  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Dextromethorphan. Updated February 15, 2018.

  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Oxymetazoline nasal spray. Updated September 15, 2016.

  7. Sleep Foundation. Allergies and sleep. Updated November 20, 2020.

  8. Baylor College of Medicine. Trouble sleeping? Experts say skip antihistamines. Updated October 7, 2013.

  9. U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Pseudoephedrine. Updated February 15, 2018.