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What pharmacy staff need to know about nasal congestion and its triggers

What Is Nasal Congestion?

Many people think nasal congestion is the result of too much mucus in the nasal passages. However, a congested nose is actually caused by inflamed blood vessels in the sinuses. This swelling blocks the nasal passages and stimulates the mucus glands in the nose to produce more mucus to help flush out whatever is causing the irritation, resulting in the typical symptoms of a blocked nose.1


What are the Symptoms of Nasal Congestion?

If a patient is suffering from nasal congestion, the following symptoms tend to occur:1

  • The nose lining becomes inflamed and swollen which causes the nasal passages to become narrower and therefore more easily blocked up.
  • Excess mucus builds up in the nasal passages, making it more difficult to breathe through the nose.

What are causes of Nasal Congestion?

There are a number of triggers that can cause nasal congestion which patients may not be aware of. These can include environmental irritants, allergies & infections.

Environmental Irritants2,3,4,5,6,7

There are several environmental irritants that can be found anywhere causing nasal congestion in some patients including:

  • Cleaning solutions/chlorine
  • Hot foods
  • Car exhaust
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Weather fluctuations, such as a drop in temperature & humidity
  • Spicy foods
  • Perfume
  • Smog/air pollution
  • Laundry detergent

The exact cause of this type of rhinitis is unknown, but it's most likely to happen in people with very sensitive nasal blood vessels.


Congestion is one of the most common symptoms of nasal allergies.  The most effective way to treat this type of congestion is to identify the trigger and find ways to minimise exposure to it.8 Triggers can include dust mites, pollen (hay fever), animals and work-related allergies such as wood dust or latex.9 


In many cases, nasal congestion can develop as the result of an infection such as the common cold leading to a sinus infection.10


How Can Sudafed Decongestant Tablets Help?


SUDAFED® Decongestant Tablets works hard to open up blocked sinuses and reduce swelling in your nasal passages, helping you breathe better. Not only is it effective for fighting congestion caused by the flu and common cold, but it can also relieve congestion due to a number of environmental triggers.11

The active ingredient pseudoephedrine hydrochloride narrows the swollen blood vessels in the nose, helping air and mucus flow more freely. SUDAFED® Decongestant Tablets address the source of the congestion and reduce the stuffy sensation experienced with nasal congestion.11

Self-Care Tips to Help Relieve Congestion

  • Rinse nasal passages to wash away excess mucus or irritants inside the nose.
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer to increase moisture levels. This helps thin the mucus, making it easier to breathe.
  • Apply a warm compress to relieve discomfort and open nasal passages.
  • Sleep with the head elevated to decrease discomfort.
  • Avoid triggering allergens that worsen congestion.
  • Reduce or avoid alcohol intake.
  • Quit/avoid smoking as tobacco smoke can act as an irritant and cause the overproduction of mucus, further blocking the nose.12,13

Patients should be signposted to their GP when they*:

  • Develop a high temperature (above 39°C or 102.2°F), which can be a sign of a more serious type of infection
  • Feel confused or disorientated
  • Notice a sharp pain in their chest
  • Cough up blood-stained phlegm (thick mucus)
  • Find it difficult to breathe
  • Notice a marked swelling of the glands in their neck and/or armpits
  • Have symptoms lasting longer than three weeks

*Please note symptoms are not limited to the above list.


Sudafed Decongestant Tablets (Pseudoephedrine HCl 60mg) Product Information

Presentation: Reddish-brown, round, biconvex film-coated tablets, with 'Sudafed' on one side. Tablets contain pseudoephedrine HCl 60mg. Uses: Symptomatic relief of allergic rhinitis, vasomotor rhinitis, common cold and influenza. Dosage: Adults and children over 12 years: 1 tablet every 4 – 6 hours up to 4 times a day. Contraindications: Hypersensitivity to ingredients, severe hypertension or coronary artery disease, with or within 2 weeks of receiving MAOIs. This product is contraindicated in individuals who are concomitantly taking other sympathomimetic decongestants and individuals taking beta blockers Precautions: Mild to moderate hypertension, renal impairment, severe hepatic impairment, heart disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, elevated intraocular pressure, prostatic enlargement. Patients with rare hereditary problems of galactose intolerance, the Lapp lactase deficiency or glucose-galactose malabsorption should not take this medicine. Concomitant use of tricyclic antidepressants, bretylium, betanidine, guanethidine, debrisoquine, methyldopa, alpha and beta blockers, other sympathomimetic agents. Severe Skin reactions: Severe skin reactions such as acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis (AGEP) may occur with pseudoephedrine-containing products. Ischaemic colitis: Pseudoephedrine should be discontinued and medical advice sought if sudden abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or other symptoms of ischaemic colitis develop. Cases of ischaemic optic neuropathy have been reported with pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine should be discontinued if sudden loss of vision or decreased visual acuity such as scotoma occurs. There have been rare cases of posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) / reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS) reported with sympathomimetic drugs, including pseudoephedrine Pregnancy and lactation: This product should not be used during pregnancy or lactation unless the potential benefit of treatment to the mother outweighs the possible risks to the developing foetus or nursing infant. Side effects: Sleep disturbance, skin rash, urinary retention, rarely hallucinations and Ischaemic optic neuropathy. Please refer to Summary of Product Characteristics for detailed information RRP (ex VAT): 12s, £3.63 Legal categoryPL Holder: McNeil Products Ltd., Foundation Park, Roxborough Way, Maidenhead, SL6 3UG. PL Number: PL 15513/0024 Date of prep: 15 JUN 2020




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