When cold and flu season hits people flock to the pharmacy, searching for the best over-the-counter medication to help relieve their symptoms. When it comes sneezing and a stuffy, runny or congested nose there are many options, which usually settle into one of two camps: Decongestants or antihistamines. Which medicine is going to relieve your symptoms? Understanding what each medicine does is important in answering this question.
A decongestant helps reduce swelling in the nasal passageways by shrinking the blood vessels. It helps you breathe easier because it relieves the pressure and improves airflow. The reason why you’re congested could be from a cold, allergies or a sinus infection.
Antihistamine blocks the body from releasing a chemical called histamine. Your body releases this chemical in response to an allergy. When too much histamine is release the body reacts through symptoms like sneezing, congestion, or a runny and itchy nose. Antihistamines are usually taken proactively to prevent these symptoms from occurring in the first place.
Which one should you take?
For true cold symptoms, a decongestant will provide more relief than an antihistamine. If you notice your “cold” symptoms occur at the same time each year (spring for examine), or are consistent year-round, you may actually have allergies that could benefit from antihistamine medication. Talk to your physician about your symptoms. Allergy tests can help determine if you are allergic to any environmental or food items.