What is the best decongestant for ears?

decongestant for ears
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni


Decongestants are medications designed to alleviate congestion arising from inflammation and pus formation in the nose and ears, typically prescribed for nasal congestion caused by bacterial or viral infections. Clogged ears, often resulting from sinuses, influenza, or ear infections, can be highly bothersome. Various types, including oral decongestants, nasal sprays, saline solutions, antihistamines, and nasal steroid sprays, are detailed to relieve congestion and pressure. Choosing the right decongestant involves age, gender, severity of the medical condition, allergies, and comorbidities. Proper consultation with healthcare professionals is crucial for effective treatment, especially when nasal congestion causes discomfort.

What are decongestants?

Decongestants are medications that help release congestion due to inflammation and pus formation in the nose and ear. Usually, they are prescribed for nasal congestion caused by bacterial or viral infection. Infections, including nasal sinuses, lead to clogged nasal cavities and clogged ears. 

These decongestants loosen the pus formation and inflammation due to infection and lessen the pressure and clogging. 

Can decongestants help clogged ears?

Clogged ears can be extremely irritating and affect the quality of your life. Several reasons, including sinuses, influenza virus, and ear infections, can cause clogged ears. These medical conditions cause inflammation and pus formation surrounding the eustachian tubes in the ear, leading to clogging, blockage, and built pressure in the ears.

Decongestants help best for nasal and ear congestions and should be used as prescribed by your healthcare professional, says Dr Richard Honekar  

Ear congestions can be troublesome, get professional help now!

What are the types of decongestants for ears?

Decongestants work the same, no matter the route selection. They help loosen the pus formation and inflammation and lead to the release of pressure formation. Some of the most common decongestants prescribed are: 

  • Oral decongestants

Oral decongestants, including all the decongestants taken via oral or mouth route. It includes tablets, capsules, and liquids. They are prescribed in the dose and dosage determined by your healthcare provider as per your medical condition. They start working within 15-30 minutes of taking it, and you will start noticing the improvement in the symptoms.
Examples are  Pseudoephedrine and Oxymetazoline.

  • Nasal decongestant sprays

Nasal decongestants are mostly prescribed decongestants. They are sprayed directly into the nasal cavities through the nostrils. They are widely used for congestion and can show its effect in 5 to 10 minutes. Your healthcare provider can prescribe them. You’ll be advised not to use nasal decongestants for more than 3 days due to their potent side effects.
An example of nasal decongestant sprays is oxymetazoline sprays.

  • Saline sprays  

As the name indicates, the mixed spray with salt (sodium) and water is also widely prescribed and used for loosening mucus in the nasal passages. After mucus is loosened and released, the pressure built in the ear and nose will be released. 

They are mostly prescribed and used in children for clearing nasal mucus in passages. 

  • Antihistamines 

Antihistamines for allergies manage symptoms triggered by allergens. Available in oral tablets, capsules, and liquids, they begin action within 30 minutes, providing relief for up to 24 hours. In any form, they help manage the congestion due to allergies and help relieve the pressure built up in the nose or ears. Some of the commonly prescribed antihistamines are loratadine, cetirizine, and fexofenadine. 

  • Nasal steroid sprays 

Steroid sprays for nasal cavities include Flonase (fluticasone), Nasonex (mometasone), Nasacort (triamcinolone), and Rhinocort (budesonide), which healthcare providers also prescribe for immediate relief and effectiveness. These sprays release mucus and congestion in nasal passages and ears. 

Choosing the Right Decongestant

Choosing the right decongestant depends on several factors. Some of them include: 

Considering these factors is crucial in selecting the appropriate medication to effectively alleviate congestion and pressure in your nasal passages, cavities, and ears. The severity of your condition often leans toward steroid sprays for more intense cases, while non-steroidal options, available either over the counter or by prescription, suffice for milder conditions like flu, colds, or allergies. Additionally, accounting for comorbidities (other medical conditions) impacting congestion is vital to prevent potential drug interactions when combining medications for decongestion.

Consult your healthcare provider now for the personalized decongestant prescription!

When should I see a doctor?

Nasal congestion can be irritating and cause extreme discomfort. Getting the right consultation can help diagnose the problem or medical condition at the right time, and effective treatment can be prescribed.  Get connected with providers virtually and start your consultation. 

Faqs about decongestant for ears

How long does it take Sudafed to unclog ears?

Sudafed starts acting in the first 20 to 30 minutes of taking and shows its effect. After 3o minutes, the symptoms, specifically clogged, will improve and start to unclog. 

Does Zyrtec clear up fluid in the ears?

Zyrtec is an anti allergy medication that starts clearing up the fluid due to allergy. It works by reducing the body’s allergic response, eventually clearing the fluid in nasal cavities and ears. 

Can I combine different decongestant methods?

Yes, you can. However, it should be discussed and advised by your healthcare provider first to avoid any drug-related interactions. Some medications also increase each other’s action while some diminish it. Discussing decongestant administration with your provider or pharmacist for proper guidelines is beneficial. 

Are there any long-term risks associated with using decongestants?

Various types of decongestants are prescribed based on their duration of action and effectiveness. At the same time, nasal sprays and certain decongestants should not be used for more than three days, while oral tablets can be taken for longer durations. It’s advantageous to adhere to the prescribed duration for maximum effectiveness.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Turner, Ronald B., and Paul M. Darden. “Effect of topical adrenergic decongestants on middle ear pressure in infants with common colds.” The Pediatric infectious disease journal 15.7 (1996): 621-624.
  • Bhambhani, Kanta, et al. “Acute otitis media in children: are decongestants or antihistamines necessary?.” Annals of Emergency Medicine 12.1 (1983): 13-16.
  • McDonald, Thomas J., H. Bryan Neel III, and Edward J. O’Connell. “Managing ear infection in children.” Postgraduate Medicine 69.6 (1981): 77-83.

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