How Do I Treat Nasal Congestion if I Have COVID-19?

Published: July 12, 2022
Mary Ann Kliethermes
By Mary Ann Kliethermes, PharmD

Feeling sniffly and congested are commonly associated with COVID-19, especially the Omicron variant. A runny nose is a sign that your immune system is working to fight off the virus by trapping it in mucus so it can exit your body. This can lead to a cough caused by excess mucus running down the back of your throat. At this time, there are no medications that cure the COVID-19 infection. However, there are things you can do to feel better.

To treat nasal congestion caused by COVID-19 at home, focus on:

  1. Get plenty of rest to help your body get the energy it needs to fight the infection.


  2. Drink lots of fluids to help keep your mucus thin so it can be cleared more easily from your lungs and sinuses.


  3. Take over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants
    • If you are feeling congested and have COVID-19, you can take OTC cough and cold medications  to treat your nasal congestion and stuffy nose.
    • Decongestants with or without antihistamines are effective in helping reduce nasal congestion and are available primarily as combination products.
    • Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), which can only be purchased behind the counter in the pharmacy, and phenylephrine (Sudafed PE), decrease the fluid in the nasal passages and allow for easier breathing.


  4. Take OTC antihistamines
  • Antihistamines dry up mucous membranes of the nose and other areas such as mouth and eyes.
  • Nasal decongestant sprays, such as oxymetazoline (Afrin, Vick’s Sinex) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine), can also be helpful.

A pharmacist’s tips
Check with your pharmacist to get specific guidance about using decongestants or antihistamines. Women who are pregnant should talk to their healthcare provider before using a decongestant or antihistamine.

  • Decongestants interact with many medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and glaucoma, and interacts with many medications.
  • Antihistamines interact with many medical conditions and medications, as well.
  • Antihistamines cause sleepiness, confusion, and other problems in the older patients.
  • It is important to carefully read the drug facts label for each medication, including OTC medications, to identify the ingredients in the product. This is especially important when purchasing combination cough and cold medications to avoid accidentally taking too much of a medication. Talk to your pharmacist or another healthcare provider if you have any questions about your medications.
  • If you or a loved one is experiencing trouble breathing, pressure in your chest, or new confusion, call 911 for immediate medical attention.

Click here for ways to treat other COVID-19 symptoms such as dry cough, sore throat, tiredness, sudden loss of taste or smell, fever, and body aches.

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