What Is Oxymetazoline?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Oxymetazoline is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays. This medication is intended for the temporary relief of symptoms of colds, allergies, and hay fever. It may help alleviate nasal congestion by constricting the blood vessels. When the blood vessels shrink, the sinuses are able to drain more efficiently.

Oxymetazoline is a common ingredient in many nasal sprays.
Oxymetazoline is a common ingredient in many nasal sprays.

Adults should carefully follow the dosing information on the product they select, as dosages can vary between brands. Children under six years of age should only use this product under strict supervision of a pediatrician, while all children under the age of 12 should rarely use this medicine. Oxymetazoline should never be used longer than three days, because overuse can damage the nasal passages and lead to worsening or chronic nasal congestion.

Patients who take phenelzine for depression should not use sprays that contain oxymetazoline.
Patients who take phenelzine for depression should not use sprays that contain oxymetazoline.

This medicine comes in an aerosol device so that it may be sprayed into the nostrils. A patient should never share nasal devices with anyone else. Before the first use, the device may need to be primed by pumping it several times until a fine mist emerges. The patient should blow his nose before each dose, then insert the tip into his nostril and pump the device once, firmly, while breathing in.

Decongestant nasal spray may cause mild nose bleeding as a side effect.
Decongestant nasal spray may cause mild nose bleeding as a side effect.

Some side effects may occur while using oxymetazoline nasal spray, which should be reported to a physician if they become severe. Patients may experience nausea, headache, or dizziness. The nasal passages may burn, sting, or become dry. Increased nasal discharge can also occur. Other side effects can include insomnia, nervousness, and sneezing.

Oxymetazoline-containing nasal sprays can interact with other drugs.
Oxymetazoline-containing nasal sprays can interact with other drugs.

More serious side effects require emergency medical care. Rarely, patients may experience a rapid or abnormally slow heartbeat. Seizures, hallucinations, or unusual behavior may occur rarely. Some patients may suffer from an allergic reaction to oxymetazoline. Possible signs of this can include swelling of the face or throat, hives, and difficulty breathing.

Before using nasal decongestant sprays containing oxymetazoline, patients should review their medical conditions or discuss them with a pharmacist. This drug may be contraindicated for use by those who have glaucoma, liver or kidney disease, or an enlarged prostate. High blood pressure, diabetes, and thyroid problems, as well as heart disease may also preclude a patient from using it. This drug can harm a nursing infant and should not be used by women who are breastfeeding. Women who are pregnant should discuss possible risks with their doctors.

Oxymetazoline nasal sprays may interact with other drugs. Patients should discuss possible interactions with a doctor or pharmacist. Examples of possible interactions with oxymetazoline include selegiline, isocarboxazid, and phenelzine.

Some over-the-counter decongestants may cause high blood pressure.
Some over-the-counter decongestants may cause high blood pressure.

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