Decongestants are used to treat ear blockages that occur as a result of clogged sinuses, explains WebMD. This type of medication constricts the blood vessels lining the nasal passages, reducing blood flow to the affected area, states the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS).
Over-the-counter decongestants are available as pills or nasal sprays, reports Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The only two OTC decongestants available in pill form are pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, but these active ingredients are sold under several brand names. Oral decongestants are also added to multi-symptom remedies for colds and sinus infections. Decongestant nasal sprays should only be used for a short period of time to reduce the risk of dependency.
The most common side effects of decongestants include elevated blood pressure, fast pulse rate, difficulty sleeping and a jittery feelings, notes the AAO-HNS. People with high blood pressure, glaucoma, heart disease or heart rhythm disorders should not take decongestants due to these potential side effects. Taking diet pills and oral decongestants together is not advised, due to the risk for excessive stimulation.
Decongestants can also interact with other prescription or OTC medications, states Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. People taking insulin, high blood pressure medications, asthma medications, monoamine oxidase inhibitors or medications to prevent seizures should not take decongestants without consulting their physicians.