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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Decongestants & Antihistamines for the Common Cold

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What Are Some Common Decongestants and Antihistamines for Colds?

There are many over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines that can help treat your symptoms. They're sold separately or as part of a combo with other cold and pain drugs.

If you choose a combination medicine, make sure you know everything that's in it. Check to see if it has acetaminophen. If so, follow the directions on the label carefully, and don't take acetaminophen along with it, because it could cause serious liver damage.

These over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants treat cold and allergy symptoms.

 

Type of Decongestant or Antihistamine Cold Medicine

Brand Name(s)

Symptoms
Treated

Possible Side Effects

Antihistamine(tablets, caplets, or liquid) Benadryl
Chlor-Trimeton
Dimetane
Tavist
Itchy, runny nose and eyes; sneezing; itchy throat Drowsiness or grogginess, upset stomachdry mouth, poor coordination and judgment, urinary retention, loss of appetite, excitability (in children)
Decongestant(tablets or caplets) Sudafed Congestion and pressure in head, nose, and ears Lightheadedness, wakefulness, nervousness, restlessness (jittery and shaky), increased blood pressure and heart rate; irregular heartbeat
Antihistamine/
decongestant
(tablets, caplets, or liquid)
Actifed
Chlor-Trimeton D
Dimetapp
Drixoral
Tavist D
Itchy, runny nose and eyes; sneezing; congestion Possible antihistamine and/or decongestant side effects
Antihistamine/
decongestant/
pain  reliever
(tablets, caplets, or liquid)
Advil Cold and Sinus
ComtrexDay/Night
Itchy, runny nose and eyes; sneezing; congestion; headache Possible antihistamine and/or decongestant side effects
Decongestant nose spray Afrin
Neo-Synephrine
Dristan NasalSpray
Nasal stuffiness Might lead to "rebound" congestion from dependence on the medicine if used for more than 3 days
Antihistamine eye drops

Visine-A (Formerly OcuHist)

Zaditor Opcon-A

Itchy, watery eyes; eye redness Temporary stinging in the eyes or blurred vision; "rebound" redness of the eyes if overused

 

 

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on January 20, 2015
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