are over the counter decongestants harmful

Are Over the Counter Decongestants Harmful?

Are over the counter decongestants harmful? When your child gets sick there are a number of responses from the body that show up as cold symptoms. These responses are natural ways that the body is trying to fight infection, remove toxins and promote healing. A fever is the body's way of killing off germs. Mucus is there as a vehicle to bring germs out of the body. Should these things really be suppressed?

The most common way of dealing with a cold is by taking cold medicine, cough suppressant, Tylenol, or decongestants. These are used in an effort to make the cold more bearable but in reality it might be making the cold last longer. Decongestants seem like a good idea, especially when your child is so congested they can't even sleep. They may (or may not) offer temporary relief but it makes the cold last longer than it would otherwise. So why are decongestants a bad idea?

They are too Drying

You might be thinking, isn't that the point? Yes, the point of taking a decongestant is to dry up the mucus so you can breathe but it's really mostly drying up the water and leaving behind a thicker stickier mucus. That sticky mucus attaches onto the sinuses and keeps the germs with it. Taking a daily dose (or more) removes the moisture from your system, which in turn, makes it more difficult for the body to drain the germs. This is why it's so important to drink a lot of fluids when a person is sick, it helps to keep the mucus thin and drain out the sinuses.


Taking decongestants during a cold can even cause new symptoms that were not there before. Constipation is a side effect of taking these medications because of its drying ability. This is not a good thing for healing because it's keeping more waste and toxins in the body rather then getting rid of them. Your gut is also not as prepared to fight off infections when it is all clogged up and constipated.

Other Possibly Harmful Side Effects

The FDA states that no child under the age of 2 should be given over the counter cold medicines. The safety for older children is still unclear. Young children are usually more sensitive to the effects of medications. Increases in blood pressure, nightmares or unusual excitement, nervousness, restlessness, or irritability may be more likely to occur in children who take decongestants.

Decongestants might seem like a good idea to get rid of some of the mucus during a cold but it's not helping the healing process. When answering the question, are over the counter decongestants harmful, consider if they even work at all? In fact, in might even be making the cold last longer. Recent news has confirmed that the FDA concluded decongestants don't even work.

Healthy Alternatives that Work

Instead of these potentially harmful medicines, chose gentle natural relief from homeopathy, cell salts, essential oils, and herbal remedies. Here is a list of things to try instead of an over the counter decongestant:

If you are looking for natural flu remedies that work, read this post.

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