10 Best Medicines for Congestion Reviewed
You can’t call into work every day, you can’t take a break from being a parent, and you have been working so hard you don’t want to break up your exercise routine. What you need is to find the best cold medicine to help get rid of all that congestion, so your head will stop feeling like it is going to explode. Also, a little helpful tip is there are some exercises, and yoga poses you can do that can help you relieve some of that congestion. The increase in circulation helps relieve sinus pressure and allows you to breathe easier.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 7 hrs of research
- Unparalleled popularity
- High potency with minimal side effects
- Very few inactive ingredients
- Mucinex 12 Hr Chest Congestion Expectorant
- Vicks VapoRub
- Sudafed PE Congestion Max Relief
- Naturade Herbal Expec
- Advil Sinus Congestion and Pain Relief
- Nasacourt Nasal Spray
- Robitussin DM Max
- Vicks Sinex Moisturizing Nasal Spray
- Afrin Original Nasal Spray
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Medicines for Congestion
1. Mucinex 12 Hr Chest Congestion Expectorant
- Unparalleled popularity
- High potency with minimal side effects
- Very few inactive ingredients
- Short shelf life
Mucinex has made one of the best treatments for debilitating cases of sinus and chest congestion on the market. With an extended-release formula that offers relief over a 12 hour period, this is a terrific remedy for debilitating cases of stuffiness that would otherwise interfere with a hard day’s work or a good night’s sleep. Better yet, it comes at an extremely reasonable price point and has nearly universal praise from reviewers.Read more
Although most tablet forms of congestion medicine need to include several inactive ingredients, Mucinex has the least amount of them possible. Most of these superfluous components are necessary to comprise the physical tablets they come in, with the remaining ingredients enhancing the effects of its active chemical.
It’s going to be tough, if not impossible, to find another congestion treatment medicine that offers the same potency per dose. Since Mucinex is comprised of guaifenesin and contains no dextromethorphan, it’s able to ensure congestion relief in high doses without the risk of adverse side effects. However, taking excessively large doses of this medicine is not recommended.
Whether you purchase this medicine in a pack of 20, a pack of 40, or a pack of 100, the cost per dose is extremely low. This is the biggest indicator of value, with the affordability increasing with larger bulk orders, but the option to purchase smaller packages is convenient for individuals who simply want to treat their stuffiness without having a boatload of tablets left over.
Close to 1,000 people have left reviews for this product online, with all but 5% of them giving a perfect score. While it doesn’t exactly prove that this is the best product for congestion relief on the market, it certainly should inspire some confidence in its effectiveness. The closest thing to criticism found is that some shipments of this product expire relatively soon, so buying in bulk may not be a good idea.
2. Vicks VapoRub
- Extremely affordable
- Minimal inactive ingredients
- Very popular
- some trouble relieving relieving bad chest congestion
The quintessential topical remedy for a stuffy nose, Vicks VapoRub is one of the most popular congestion treatment products around. While it may not resolve more serious cases or offer long-lasting treatment, its non-invasive treatment method and afforable price has made it a universally loved naturalistic medication.Read more
The formula that comprises Vicks VapoRub is extremely simple, with about as many inactive ingredients as there are active ones. This means that no one who applies this medicine will have to worry about exposing their body to confusing and worrisome chemicals; all they have to do is smear some on their chest and breathe clearly once again.
While this formula is effective at clearing one’s nasal passages, it offers little help in relieving chest congestion. This is only an effective treatment method for minor cases of nasal stuffiness, so individuals looking to relieve more serious symptoms will need to either supplement Vicks with additional medicines or choose a different product entirely.
One package of VapoRub can be purchased for less than five dollars. It’s just not possible to find a better deal on congestion relief than that. Larger packages will come at an increased cost, but the extremely low fiscal barrier to entry is part of what makes this product so appealing as a general congestion treatment method.
People just can’t get enough of this topical remedy. With many reviews left online, the majority of customers have stated that this is one of the gentlest and most effective ways for them to relieve sinus congestion and pressure. Some people even like to place small doses in their humidifiers to fill their rooms with the smell of menthol.
3. Sudafed PE Congestion Max Relief
- Very affordable
- Strong dosage
- Popular brand
- A plethora of inactive ingredients
As the most powerful version of this over-the-counter cough medicine, this Sudafed product is designed to offer the strongest possible degree of congestion relief. Although individuals with minor cases of stuffiness may want to pass on this product for something gentler, this is a terrific option for the worst cases.Read more
The powerful treatment provided by this medication comes at the cost of a lengthy list of inactive ingredients. Many of these ingredients are unrecognizable, meaning that the vast majority of individuals taking this medicine simply won’t know what exactly they’re putting into their body. If this is something that bothers you, then you’re better off with a different product.
With a very high dose of phenylephrine, this congestion medicine is sure to knock out even the worst cases of chest and sinus congestion. Although it won’t resolve underlying issues that are the catalyst of most serious cases, it can definitely offer some relief for those who are suffering from these illnesses.
With such a recognizable brand name and a promise of maximum strength, it will come as a surprise to many prospective customers to see it sold at such a low price. Without the need to place a bulk order and have multiple doses left over, this is the perfect dirt-cheap congestion remedy.
This is not the most popular congestion medicine based on the number of reviews left online. However, out of the people who did take the time to leave their thoughts on this product, the general consensus is that it works exceptionally well at treating their stuffiness and clearing their breathing passages.
4. Naturade Herbal Expec
- High potency
- Derived from natural ingredients
- Very popular
- Many inactive ingredients
- Somewhat pricey
This congestion remedy sets itself apart from most others on the market by presenting a more holistic and natural alternative to synthetic chemicals and concoctions. Aside from its main ingredient, most of this medicine is derived from natural sources.Read more
Despite advertising itself as a natural remedy, the list of inactive ingredients for this herbal expectorant is quite large. It’s true that these ingredients are mostly plant-based, such as menthol and ginkgo biloba, but the sheer quantity of them may cause some individuals to be concerned.
With a high dose of guaifenesin, this medication is designed around making coughing fits more effective at treating congestion rather than suppressing the urge to cough in general. While this accomplishes the intended task of removing congestion, its potency may cause some discomfort for sensitive individuals.
No one said natural remedies were going to be cheap. Although the cost of a single bottle of this medicine is within the same price range as many other medications, it also comes at the same price some syrups offer for bulk orders. The price per dose comparison of this product isn’t very favorable.
Despite not having as many reviews as many other medications on this list, the people who have left their thoughts on Naturade have been extremely positive. One common recommendation made by reviewers is to take this syrup with a glass of water because it can cause some stomach issues without it.
5. Advil Sinus Congestion and Pain Relief
- Relieves pain
- Reliable brand name
- Reduces swelling
- High price per dose
- Confusing inactive ingredients
With more of a focus on general pain and inflammation relief, this incredibly popular panacea has been updated with additional congestion medication. Despite having a high-profile name that attracts a great deal of praise, the actual potency of this medicine is suspect.Read more
With so many different inactive ingredients labeled with bizarre scientific names, it’s unclear what purpose many of these chemicals serve. Xanthan gum, glycerin, and wax are important for bonding the tablets, but the scores of other components are a complete mystery. Customers interested in naturalistic remedies should give this one a pass.
200 milligrams of ibuprofen in each tablet will have a powerful effect on the individual’s pain and swelling, reducing much of the negative sensations commonly associated with nasal congestion. Coupled with a small amount of an additional decongestant, this medicine effectively treats the cause and symptoms of nasal stuffiness.
The cost per pill for this Advil offshoot is alarmingly high. It’s difficult to justify this inflated cost, since the primary active ingredient can be found in bulk for significantly cheaper. It appears that the only justification for its price is the brand name associated with it. However, the relief that it purportedly offers for congested individuals is worth spending a bit more money on in the eyes of the majority.
Despite having a large list of confusing inactive ingredients and a ridiculous price tag, this is one of the most popular congestion medications online. The root of this high acclaim is likely a combination of the brand name and the general effectiveness of ibuprofen as a cure-all.
- Contains natural ingredients
- Excellent value
- Very popular
- Disgusting taste
- Potential side effects
Touted as the most effective cough suppressant on the market that doesn’t require a prescription, the truth is that this is simply a decent congestion medication without a plethora of harmful additives. A decent price tag and high popularity make this a solid pick for individuals suffering from stuffiness.Read more
Although there are still several inactive ingredients contained in the Creomulsion formula, these are harmless and mostly derived from natural resources. Unless you’re worried about creosote or sucrose, this medicine will treat your symptoms without introducing harmful chemicals into your body.
Creomulsion, also known as dextromethorphan, is the key ingredient in this congestion medicine. It works by suppressing signals in the brain that would trigger a cough reaction, which will only work for individuals suffering from a cold or flu. Still, it’s a decently potent medication that will address the symptoms for most people.
Although the price tag for this product may seem a bit high, the justification for this is the fact that this medicine comes in packs of three. When calculating the cost per dose, the value of this congestion medication is actually very reasonable. However, buying in bulk will most likely lead to much of this product being left over after the congestion is relieved.
With almost universal praise online, this is one of the most popular cough suppressant syrups on the market. Reviewers praise its effectiveness at treating their symptoms but they also mention its nasty taste and potential for side effects if used improperly.
7. Nasacourt Nasal Spray
- Fantastically potent
- Package deals
- High popularity
- Can cause damage if excessively dosed
With multiple packages available for small or large orders, this nasal spray is offered at a convenient rate for the buyer. It’s twice as potent as the other nasal sprays on this list but some of the inactive ingredients may be cause for concern.Read more
The active ingredient in this medication is one that is commonly found in nasal sprays, but a large number of inactive ingredients contained in this formula may be troubling to some. In particular, a small amount of hydrochloric acid can scare away some potential customers, although it’s far from enough to cause any damage if appropriately administered.
The other nasal sprays on this buying guide offer a guarantee that they will treat sinus congestion for up to 12 hours after dosing. Nasacourt offers an even better deal with a full 24 hours of clear breathing passages after just one spray in each nostril. It goes without saying that this is a seriously potent medication.
Depending on the needs of each customer, Nasacourt is conveniently offered in a variety of packages. Individuals who just need one unit can purchase it separately, while those who would like to save on bulk orders also have the option to do so. It’s a rare thing to see when ordering nasal sprays online.
This medication has been reviewed by almost a thousand customers with an overwhelmingly positive reception. Something worth noting, however, is that a few customers noticed nasal damage if they used this medicine for too long; because of that, caution should be exercised when administering Nasacourt.
8. Robitussin DM Max
- Extremely potent
- Very popular
- Pleasant taste
- High price
- Contains unhealthy ingredients
With a combination of active ingredients that work to powerfully treat chest congestion, this raspberry flavored non-drowsy cough syrup will easily eliminate most minor cases of the cold or flu. The only things to look out for is excessive dosing and the number of inactive ingredients.Read more
While this maximum strength congestion medicine features powerful active ingredients, they come with a laundry list of inactive ones. Some of these are simple bonding agents while others are common health concerns such as high-fructose corn syrup.
The dextromethorphan contained in Robitussin is a powerful anti-cough medicine, while the guaifenesin makes coughing fits more effective. Being a maximum strength medication, the doses of these two medicines are so potent that taking too much may cause queasiness, so care must be taken when administering this syrup.
The cost per fluid ounce of this medicine is a bit on the steep side but it is still well within an acceptable price range. This increased cost can be attributed to the increased strength of this Robitussin formula, making it a justified asking price. Still, individuals with less severe cases of stuffiness can find a suitable medication for a lower cost.
This medicine is so powerful that it only recently became available over-the-counter, meaning customers used to require a prescription to obtain it. Among those who have tried it, a great deal of praise has been given regarding its effectiveness and lack of harmful side effects.
9. Vicks Sinex Moisturizing Nasal Spray
- Soothing application
- Doesn’t dry out nostrils
- Popular reception
- Many inactive ingredients
- No bulk offers
This moisturizing nasal spray from the makers of the extremely popular VapoRub helps to relieve sinus congestion while avoiding the common side effects that come from similar medications. It’s a great value and generally popular, although its potency and purity are questionable.Read more
In order to make this medication more comfortable to the taker, some additional ingredients were added aside from the standard nasal spray bonding agents. These include aloe, sorbitol, and fragrances, which can improve the experience of dosing but has no effect on the actual sinus congestion.
As a consequence to this medicine’s more soothing application, the decongesting effects aren’t as pronounced as some of the more potent alternatives. However, the vast majority of reviewers have stated that it certainly gets the job done. Also worth noting is that this medication will only treat sinus congestion; individuals suffering from chest congestion will need to look elsewhere for treatment.
No bulk offer is available for purchasing this nasal spray, meaning that the cost per volume is a bit on the high side. However, the cost for one package is conveniently low and will provide enough medicine to relieve one person’s sinus issues for the entire cold season. Enough doses are included with one package to share with another person suffering from sinus congestion, although the hygiene issues associated with sharing may discourage you from doing so.
The good news is that this Vicks nasal spray is reviewed very favorably by customers, with a high average rating on Amazon. The bad news is that relatively few people have left reviews on this product, meaning that the average rating isn’t necessarily indicative of the general population’s impression.
10. Afrin Original Nasal Spray
- Excellent value
- Surprisingly potent
- Decent popularity
- Lackluster purity
- Difficult to open
This effective non-drowsy nasal spray can provide up to 12 hours of congestion relief and comes at a fantastic value. A less popular reception and a plethora of inactive ingredients keep this medicine from being truly great, instead settling for just being good.Read more
In order to administer the active ingredient in this nasal spray, a large number of inactive ingredients are required. These are mostly bonding agents and shouldn’t cause any adverse health effects, but the presence of these superfluous chemicals can cause concern for some individuals.
What’s unique about this nasal spray is that although the active ingredient is delivered in a very small dosage, the effects of it are substantial. Just one spray of this medicine in each nostril will immediately open up the nasal passages for an extended period of time, making this treatment method surprisingly potent.
Afrin is commonly sold in packs of three when purchasing through online retailers. While this means that it comes at a fantastic value per dosage, the truth is that virtually no one will need this much medicine unless their entire extended family is suffering from sinus congestion. However, there is no denying that it is sold at an excellent price per volume.
This nasal spray has favorable rankings online with a large number of reviews, but it isn’t as highly praised as many other products on this list. Common complaints include that the cap is extremely difficult to take off and that the spray can cause sneezing fits in some individuals.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
If it's not going to improve your congestion it didn't make our list. Period.
There's no point in taking medicine that doesn't work. That much seems obvious. When writing this buying guide we only chose products that have proven to be effective. So have faith that there's something on this list that will work for you. But we wanted to help you learn more about how the products on our list work. The two main effective ingredients in congestion medicines are phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine has a fairly high potential for abuse and is also one of the ingredients that are combined to make methamphetamines so the government has recently passed legislation that restricts its sale. It can still be purchased over the counter in most locations but the amount is usually limited and you may need to show ID. However, 100% of pseudoephedrine is absorbed in the intestinal tract which makes it highly effective at relieving congestion. Compare this to phenylephrine, of which the intestines are only able to absorb only 38% which makes it less effective but it's much more readily and easily available. Having said that, if you're not too much into science just know that all of the products on this list have been shown to do a good job at easing your congestion problems. Some still work better than others and that factor can also vary between different people because everyone's body is different.
Ease of Use
When you're not feeling well it's important to have a product that is simple to apply or ingest.
In this buying guide, we have products that are taken in many different ways. There are pills you can take, nasal sprays you spray up your nose, cream-type products that you rub on your chest, and liquids that you drink. A lot of how easy these things are to ingest depends on the preferences of the user. For example, some people have no problem swallowing pills but don't like spraying something up their nose. For others, rubbing cream on their chest feels great but will note that this means they probably aren't going to want to do so and then go out in public. Not only will it probably stain your shirt but it can also smell strange and cause some awkward social situations. We know it sounds like we're dancing around the subject but the truth is that how easy a product is to use is very subjective and depends on the user's preferences as well as their context. Before buying the best question to ask yourself is: Do I want something I can take while I'm at work or otherwise out in public? Or am I looking for medicine that will be taken in the privacy of my own home?
What you put in your body is obviously very important.
While there are several natural ways to relieve congestion, we didn't focus on those in this buying guide. But here are some quick natural remedies; a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil rubbed under your nose may help. Another thing you can try is using a humidifier, especially if you live in a dry environment. For our busy and active readers, however, we wanted to bring you the medicines that are the fastest acting and most effective so that you don't get slowed down in your day to day life or in your training. Having said all that, even though some of the ingredients in these medicines may be kind of scary sounding, they are all FDA approved and won't cause you harm. We ranked each product based on how many of their ingredients are safe to use and naturally sourced.
The fewer undesirable and unseen effects of a medicine, the better.
Unfortunately, like most medicines decongestants can, at times, have undesirable side effects. Some of the most common ones are sleeping problems, nervousness and/or anxiety, and lightheadedness and/or dizziness. However, please note that healthy adults who only take decongestant medicine for short periods of time usually don't experience side effects and if they do they tend to be quite mild. In order to help minimize the possibility of side effects, it's recommended that you don't take a decongestant medicine for more than 3 consecutive days. This will help you to hopefully avoid any side effects, but please note that we aren't doctors and none of the health advice in this buying guide should be taken at face value. When it comes to your all-important health it's important to do your own research and to consult your doctor with any additional questions. Also, please note that you should definitely talk to your doctor before taking an over the counter decongestant if you have any of these medical conditions: thyroid issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, glaucoma, prostate problems, or heart conditions.
At the end of the day, you want a decongestant medicine that works well, works quickly, and doesn't cause any unwanted side effects.
Being congested can be a real pain, literally and figuratively. And for us runners, it can be extra annoying because it can quickly put a halt on your training because, you know, if you can't breathe it's kind of hard to run! It's for this reason that we made the effectiveness of a medicine the top factor on our list. We wanted to bring you products that will ease your congestion quickly so you can get back to running. We also recognize how important health is, so we did our best to bring you safe products that won't cause you unwanted side effects. And while it wasn't one of our top factors, we recognize and respect the sanctity of your wallet so we did our best to bring you medicines that were also affordable and offer you good value for your hard earned money.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
There are all natural solutions for some users, which we know is important for many of you. However, keep in mind that they typically are not as potent as the rest. If you have mild symptoms or need something you need to use more often then a more natural solution may work for you.
Make sure to rotate your medications as their expiration dates approach--this is especially important for those of you who only have to rely on congestion medication seasonally.
Other Factors to Consider
The factors described above are sufficient for determining the quality of the ten products listed in this buying guide. However, there may be some individuals who have particular circumstances that may necessitate additional information. For the sake of these special cases, here are some other factors worth consideration:
Certain active or inactive ingredients contained in some of these medications may have the potential to trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Other additives may conflict with certain diets, such as animal-based gelatin for tablets. If you are diabetic it is best to check with your doctor before taking any cold medication that is over the counter. Some additives may affect your blood sugars, and cause them to increase.
All of the products listed here are over-the-counter and do not require a prescription to obtain. For individuals with much more serious conditions, it may be a better idea to take a medication that is prescribed by a medical professional.
Frequently Asked Questions
Medicines containing guaifenesin and dextromethorphan as their active ingredients are safe to use when pregnant. Topical creams such as Vicks are also safe since they don’t require ingestion to work. Pseudoephedrine is unsafe to take during the first trimester, but it can be taken safely during subsequent trimesters. If you are pregnant or think you will become pregnant soon, talk to your doctor about what medications you can and cannot take during pregnancy!
Cold and cough medicine is unsafe to give to children younger than four years old. To relieve congestion in toddlers and infants, use a nasal bulb to remove built-up mucous in their sinuses. A small amount of saline can be used safely in this process. You can also run a hot shower and stand in the bathroom with the door shut (not in the shower that would be too hot), and create some steam, and the heat will help open your child’s airways. Discuss which medications are safe for your child with their doctor.
Most cases of congestion are caused by seasonal illnesses such as the cold or flu and will resolve themselves after a few days of rest and fluids. However, more serious causes of congestion such as bronchitis or emphysema will require assistance from a doctor and regular medication to treat. If you have severe congestion that makes it very difficult to breathe or you have other symptoms, head to the ER, urgent care clinic, or contact your doctor right away.
Sometimes, congestion can occur if the air around you is too dry. In these situations, adding extra humidity to the air around you with the aid of a humidifier can help to relieve this congestion. Humidifiers can also be used to treat congestion from a cold or flu but they won’t be very helpful for more serious conditions.
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