FDA Deems Phenylephrine Ineffective; Alternatives Proposed for Cold and Allergy Relief


As autumn and winter approach, bringing with them colds and ailments, the US Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee has made a notable decision. Phenylephrine, a key ingredient found in a wide range of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, is now deemed ineffective. This, however, does not leave us helpless against the sniffles.

Dr. David C. Brodner, a seasoned otolaryngologist based in Boynton Beach, Florida, reminds us that there are numerous alternatives. One can explore home remedies and pharmacy solutions before deciding to consult with a doctor. Despite phenylephrine’s ineffectiveness in pill form — a conclusion reached by the FDA’s independent advisory committee on Tuesday — the ingredient remains safe for use in other modes, such as nasal sprays.

While the FDA solicits public input and determines the next steps regarding phenylephrine-based medications, pill forms of the ingredient will stay on sale. If individuals find no relief after seven to ten days or experience worsening symptoms, Dr. Brodner advises seeking medical attention. Yet to preempt a visit to the doctor, there is an array of methods one can try at home to alleviate symptoms.

At the pharmacy, various products can alleviate congestion sans phenylephrine. Brodner advocates a three-step plan to combat a clogged-up nose. Starting with a product such as Mucinex or something containing guaifenesin facilitates the breakdown of mucus in the sinuses. Then a steroid-based nose spray like Flonase or Nasacort is advised, followed by a saline irrigation method, such as a neti pot, to cleanse the sinuses.

Neti pots, or other saline nasal irrigation instruments, are particularly beneficial for persistent sinus pressure and headaches. These tools remove mucus and inflammatory byproducts from your nose, explains Dr. Richard J. Harvey, a renowned professor of rhinology at Macquarie University. Cautiously though, he notes that while tap water may be safe for cooking and drinking, it lacks the sterility required for neti pot usage.

The CDC suggests the use of microbe-free water, like distilled or sterile water, which can be purchased readily. Boiled and cooled water is also a suitable alternative. Brodner recommends using a saline irrigation method twice daily while suffering from a cold.

In addition to these measures, Brodner suggests applying warm compresses, taking hot showers, and staying hydrated. Keeping your nose warm and wet assists the natural mechanisms that promote optimal health. Hot showers and steam help to heat the nose, promoting mucus flow. Drinking sufficient water ensures the lining of nose and sinuses remain moist, which greatly simplifies drainage.

Dr. Brodner also notes the unexpected assistance of spicy foods in relieving congestion. Capsaicin, a chemical found in spicy foods, can stimulate a runny nose, thus aiding in the drainage of mucus from the sinuses.

Sleep is crucial when dealing with congestion, though achieving a good night’s rest can be challenging. Ensuring seven hours or more of sleep bolsters the body’s ability to combat infection. Breathing through the nose during sleep aids in moisture retention. Should you need to breathe through your mouth, using a humidifier can help maintain moist and warm air. Elevating your head could also assist with drainage, but only if comfortable enough to not disrupt sleep.

Lastly, a bowl of comforting chicken soup may also have beneficial properties, backed up by a 2018 study. The research suggested possible anti-inflammatory qualities that alleviate cold symptoms. The therapeutic value of the warmth, spices and received care that usually accompany the preparation and service of chicken soup should not be overlooked, regardless of whether the relief stems directly from the soup’s ingredients.


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