The 7 Best Sinus Decongestants of 2021

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First Look

Best Overall: GoodSense Nasal Decongestant at Amazon

"Promises a non-drowsy formula so you can be free to take a tablet anytime in the day."

Best Natural: Vicks Cool Mist Humidifier at Amazon

"Runs up to 33 hours to banish dry air so you can breathe easy."

Best Spray: Flonase Allergy Relief Nasal Spray at Amazon

"One quick spritz alleviates some of the most common symptoms for up to 24 hours of relief."

Best for Colds: Mucinex Sinus-Max Liquid at walgreens.com

"If you're not a fan of tablets, a dose of Mucinex's Relief Liquid works quickly to come to the rescue."

Best for Sinus Infections: Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain + Relief at Amazon

"For when the swelling pressure between your nose and forehead is too much to handle."

Best Neti Pot: ComfyPot Ergonomic Ceramic Neti Pot at Amazon

"Reusable, long-lasting, and designed to be spill-free."

Best for Babies: Zyrtec 24 Hr Children’s Allergy Syrup at Amazon

"Safe for kiddos over two years old and made by one of the top pediatrician-recommended brands."

With the changing seasons come allergies, and with allergies come distractions. Whether it’s a runny nose, itchy eyes, or headache, these symptoms have the ability to completely change the trajectory of your day and throw you off track. Although there isn’t one foolproof way to attack your symptoms, there are a few places you can start. 

Victoria Green, MD, a resident at UCSF Fresno, recommends speaking with your healthcare team before starting any new medications because your doctors can help guide you toward the right solution for your individualized symptoms. Dr. Green says one of the reasons people may not feel like their sinuses clear up properly after choosing a certain medication to use on their own is “commonly due to incorrect medication use in terms of frequency and/or duration. This may also be due to inadequate medical therapy such as patients requiring the combination of an antihistamine and a corticosteroid when they fail to achieve sufficient relief with one agent.” 

But, sometimes, you just need a quick fix to take away any allergy symptoms—and that’s when running to the pharmacy for medicine becomes the easy solution. When it comes to allergy medicines, Dr. Green says it’s important to remember that not one size fits all. “The recovery in any specific patient is influenced by the frequency and severity of symptoms, the age of the patient, and the presence of concurrent medical conditions,” she explains. According to Dr. Green, nasal sprays tend to be preferred over oral medication because they “provide fairly immediate relief of nasal congestion” and may present few side effects.

Here are some other possibilities when looking to relieve congestion and other allergy symptoms. 

Best Overall: GoodSense Nasal Decongestant

GoodSense Nasal Decongestant

 Courtesy of Amazon

When it comes to your health, price shouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, it is for a lot of people. That’s why GoodSense Nasal Decongestant is a trusted brand that looks out for your wallet while also looking out for your well-being. One tablet of this non-drowsy formula every four hours—but no more than six tablets in 24 hours—promises to temporarily ease any sinus congestion and pressure that comes along with colds, hay fever, and allergies.

Its active ingredient is phenylephrine, which is comparable to Sudafed, and it's safe for children 12 and above to take.

Best Natural: Vicks Cool Mist Humidifier

Vicks Cool Mist Filter Free Humidifier

Courtesy of Amazon

A nice precursor or supplement to allergy medicine is a humidifier. Designed to add moisture to the air, a humidifier can help you breathe easier by increasing the humidity in your nose to then break down congestion and relieve any coughing due to colds or allergies. 

The Vicks Cool Mist Humidifier can run day and night (up to 33 hours to be exact) and will help open up your nasal passages. It comes with two Vicks Vapors packs, so you have the option of adding calming, aromatic vapors to your mist. The humidifier is so quiet you don’t have to worry about being disturbed during your rest, and when the water is out, it will automatically shut off. 

Best Spray: Flonase Allergy Relief Nasal Spray

Although sticking something in your nostril does not bring about the most comforting images, your sinuses will thank you for using Flonase. Nasal sprays work by isolating the inflammatory cells that overproduce mucus. “Steroid nasal sprays are highly effective and are recommended by guidelines as the best single therapy for patients with persistent or moderate-to-severe symptoms,” explains Dr. Green. “Specific agents include fluticasone propionate, beclomethasone and budesonide.”

In addition to providing nasal congestion relief and a runny nose, Flonase alleviates sneezy, itchy nose, and watery, itchy eyes. With up to two sprays, this spray is supposed to provide 24-hour prescription-strength relief and can be used beyond a few days for regular use. 

Best for Colds: Mucinex Sinus-Max Liquid

Sinus-Max Adult Maximum Strength Severe Congestion Relief Liquid

Courtesy of Walgreens

It’s pretty easy to agree that losing out on sleep due to a cold is annoying. This decongestant from Mucinex may not be the most tasty, but its triple action formula contains guaifenesin, phenylephrine, and acetaminophen. Together they work quickly and tackle sinus pressure, headaches, fever, mucus, and more. Mucinex Sinus-Max is the type of sinus decongestant you want to stay with you at night. 

Best for Sinus Infections: Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain + Relief

When the constant swelling pressure that branches from your nose to forehead is too much to handle, Sudafed PE Pressure and Pain is there to step in to fight for you. Each box comes with 24 pills, each containing the decongestant phenylephrine and acetaminophen for pain and fever relief. This power-packed medicine also helps encourage sinus drainage and ameliorate minor aches and pains.

Best Neti Pot: ComfyPot Ergonomic Ceramic Neti Pot

neti pot typically mirrors a teapot, with a handle and spout that makes it easier to flush out mucus from your nostrils. If you're suffering from congestion brought on by a cold or allergies, a neti pot is worth considering. Using a store-bought or homemade saline solution, this process can help clear up mucus and restore solid breathing. 

The ComfyPot Ergonomic Ceramic Neti Pot is exactly what it sounds like: comfy. Its silicone nozzle makes it easier to fit your nostril and makes the pouring part simple; no spillage here. And best of all, this ceramic neti pot is reusable year after year, unlike plastic ones, and is dishwasher safe. 

Best for Babies: Zyrtec 24 Hr Children’s Allergy Syrup

Zyrtec Children's Allergy Syrup

Courtesy of Amazon

If your child is less than two years old, it’s best to consult your pediatrician before looking to OTC medication for help. If they’re over two, Children’s Zyrtec is a great option. The 24-hour allergy medicine is perfect for both indoor and outdoor relief and comes in a tasty grape flavor to satisfy even the pickiest of medicine eaters’ taste buds. It aims at reduced symptoms associated with hay fever and allergies, such as runny nose, sneezing, and itchy nose, eyes, and throat. 

Produced by one of the top pediatrician-recommended brands, Children’s Zyrtec has your child’s best interest in mind, with zero dyes and sugar. 

Final Verdict

You can trust Flonase Allergy Relief Nasal Spray to take care of you during the day, taking away any congestion or head pressure without impacting your working hours. Then you can turn to Mucinex Sinus-Max at night to ease you to sleep by quieting your symptoms. 

Key Considerations When Buying a Sinus Decongestant

Symptoms: The symptoms you’re experiencing should be one of your top considerations when selecting which decongestant might work best for you. “Symptoms that may warrant the temporary use of a decongestant include nasal congestion (blocked or stuffy nose) with or without facial pressure and pain,” Dr. Kirk Shepard, a board-certified allergy and immunology specialist with Chicago ENT, tells Verywell Health. “These symptoms may be caused by infections, such as the common cold, allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or non-allergic rhinitis, and sinusitis.” The medication then works to decongest , as stated in the title, the nose passage from the blockage. 

Other symptoms with your nasal decongestion could indicate that you need medications that might address the additional problems you’re experiencing. Luckily, many medications on the market make it clear what type of symptoms they will address upon taking. If you’re unsure about what might work best for you, consult your doctor about what they recommend. 

Ingredients: Decongestant medications, which are stimulants, can contain the ingredients oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, and pseudoephedrine. “They constrict blood vessels in the nose to decrease nasal tissue swelling causing nasal congestion,” Dr. Shepard says. He does not advise the medication for children under six years of age to take the medication because of the ingredients used. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are also advised to consult with a doctor before use. 

Strong decongestants that have ingredients like the ones listed above are recommended to be used sparingly due to the potential harmful side effects they can cause, such as increased blood pressure. 

“Natural medications such as saline or saltwater are very effective in cleaning out the nose,” Dr. Abramowitz says. 

Form: Decongestants can come in multiple forms, including nasal sprays and oral medications. “As an ear, nose, and throat doctor, I usually prefer nasal sprays to oral medications of the same class,” Dr. Abramowitz says. “This is because the medication gets to directly go to the area of concern.” The nasal sprays, he adds, also don’t have the same types of side effects as oral medications because less of it is absorbed into the bloodstream, making them a more optimal choice for people. Nasal sprays also “have a faster onset of action than oral formulations,” Dr. Shepard says. 

One benefit to oral medication is that some options on the market combine ingredients to address a variety of symptoms, so these can be preferred if you’re dealing with a cold or infection that also involves more than just nasal congestion. But these oral medications go directly into the bloodstream and spread throughout the body once taken, leading to the possibility you’ll experience side effects

While most sinus decongestants are taken orally or applied topically, there are other ways to clear those sinuses. Humidifiers can help make the air around you a little easier to breathe, and are a great alternative to a medicated treatment.

Longevity of use: Doctors recommend for decongestants to only be used for no longer than three days. “When nasal decongestants are overused, the nasal mucosa develops a tolerance to the nasal decongestant which results in worsening congestion,” Dr. Shepard says. This overuse can lead to rhinitis medicamentosa, a condition of rebound nasal congestion typically brought on from nasal spray dependence. 

Are you using a decongestant for multiple days and not finding relief? Then it might be time to speak to your doctor about other options to help relieve your symptoms, as you might have a more severe bacterial infection. 

“Strong decongestants with medications designed to constrict blood vessels such as oxymetazoline, pseudoephedrine, and neosynephrine are medications that should be used sparingly as prolonged use can lead to certain side effects,” Dr. Abramowitz says. 

Side effects: The more common side effects people experience, both with nasal spray and oral decongestants, is the headaches, sleeplessness, nervousness and dizziness. Less common side effects that should be reported to your doctor are increased blood pressure, changes in heart rate or rhythm, and insomnia.

Nasal Sprays: What We Like
  • Medication is applied topically

  • Less medication is absorbed into the bloodstream (compared to oral decongestants)

  • Lower risk of side effects (compared to oral decongestants)

Nasal Sprays: What We Don't Like
  • Requires proper application to be effective; incorrect application can cause throat irritation

  • Can irritate nasal passages

  • Can lead to rhinitis medicamentosa if used for more than three days in a row

Oral Medications: What We Like
  • Some options combine ingredients to address a variety of symptoms

Oral Medications: What We Don't Like
  • Carry a greater risk of side effects, including increased blood pressure and changes in heart rate or rhythm

“As an ear nose and throat doctor, I usually prefer nasal sprays to oral medications of the same class. This is because the medication gets to directly go to the area of concern.” — Dr. Jason Abramowitz, a board-certified otolaryngologist and surgeon with ENT and Allergy Associates in New Jersey

Why Trust Verywell

Having been raised by two medical professionals, Amari Pollard understands the importance of health literacy. As a seasoned health writer, she is committed to producing well-researched and well-sourced product reviews to help people make informed medical decisions. 

Additional reporting by Danielle Zoellner.

As a seasoned health writer, Danielle Zoellner knows the importance of finding just the right product to fit your medical needs. Throughout her career, Danielle has interviewed a variety of experts in the medical and health fields while reviewing dozens of products. Her experience and knowledge in the field work together to help readers like yourself find the best products for your daily life.

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Article Sources
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  1. InformedHealth.org. Treating acute sinusitis. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Updated October 18, 2018.

  2. Salerno SM, Jackson JL, Berbano EP. Effect of oral pseudoephedrine on blood pressure and heart rate: a meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(15):1686.