Oxymetazoline hydrochloride is a nonprescription medication commonly used to treat nasal congestion. It is applied topically, via nasal spray, mist or drops. Common trade names for products with oxymetazoline include Afrin and Dristan 12-Hour. Oxymetazoline also treats eye redness and is available in eye drops under the trade name Ocuclear.
How It Works
Oxymetazoline acts as a local vasoconstrictor, tightening small blood vessels in the nose and eye. By reversing the dilation of these vessels, oxymetazoline promotes fluid drainage from tissue, which helps relieve nasal congestion and eye redness.
Because it is applied topically rather than ingested or injected, most of oxymetazoline's effects are local and mild. You may experience sneezing, stinging or burning sensation, nasal dryness or irritation. With long-term use, you may experience continued runny nose, worsened congestion, nasal irritation and, in some cases, nosebleed.
Although its effects are generally localized, oxymetazoline may be absorbed into the bloodstream. In patients with cardiac disease, it may increase blood pressure. Diabetic patients may experience elevated glucose levels. Patients with thyroid disease, glaucoma, prostate gland disease, and liver or kidney disease should limit or avoid oxymetazoline use.
You should use oxymetazoline to relieve only acute congestion from an allergic reaction, cold, flu or another short-term condition. It is not recommended for continuous use. Using this medication beyond three days may lead to a worsening of congestion caused by "rebound" dilation of nasal membranes.
Wash your hands before and after using oxymetazoline and avoid sharing applicators with others to limit the spread of infection. Don't allow applicators to touch the eye or nasal membranes. Nasal spray users may wish to blow their noses before administering the drug to improve its effect. Eye drop users may find it helpful to pull the bottom eyelid forward, creating a "pocket" into which drops may be placed. Pinching the bridge of the nose following eye drop use may help limit absorption of oxymetazoline into the bloodstream.
- Wilson and Gisvold's Textbook of Organic Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Chemistry; Eleventh edition; John Block, Ph.D, R.Ph,, and John Beale, Jr., R.Ph. eds.; 2006.
- Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs: An Interactive Approach to Self-Care; Sixteenth edition; Rosemary Barardi, PharmD, FCCP, FASHP, FAPhA, et al.; 2009.
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