How to best treat rhinisitis?
December 27, 2013 11:33 AM   Subscribe

The only cold symptom I ever get is a bad runny nose, what drug treats a runny nose and only a runny nose?

I get about one cold each winter and each time the only symptom is a really gnarly runny nose. My usual strategy is to just deal with it for a few days, and my current one isn't even bad right now, but I've got a social event tonight that I want to be non-mucusy for.

Since I usually don't bother to take anything I'm not familiar with the cold medicine ecosystem. I just spent 20 minutes in a CVS cold and flu aisle searching for the right drug but ended up walking out empty handed because nothing in their dazzling array of syrups, pills, nasal sprays seemed to be what I'm looking for. Everything is all about sinus congestion, coughs, and pains. I just want to dry my nose out. Am I right in guessing that a congestion treatment will actually make it ooze faster? Are anti-histamines just for allergies or would it dry me out too? Is a spray or rinse the right call?
posted by cirrostratus to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sudafed (original pseudoephedrine, not the newfangled stuff). In my state it's prescription-only but in most states I think you just have to ask the pharmacist for it.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you're also wanting to sleep, Benadryl. If you're not wanting to sleep, I'd recommend Allegra or Zyrtec. Each will dry you up for a few hours. I'm not a fan of the spray/rinse thing at all, but that's a personal preference.
posted by Mooski at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2013

Texas law on buying pseudoephedrine. Bring your driver's license to the pharmacy with you.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:38 AM on December 27, 2013

Antihistamines. They vary in terms of strength and how drowsy they'll make you, but that's what will dry you up. Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec are examples, with Benadryl being both the strongest antihistamine and the most likely to make you drowsy (it is also sold as a sleep aid).

Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) is a decongestant, not an antihistamine. If you are feeling cloggy in addition to runny, this is what you want.
posted by asperity at 11:39 AM on December 27, 2013

Sad to say but the best link I can find is an eHow article.

The word you're looking for is "rhinitis" (nasal inflammation). Allergic rhinitis is typically treated with the antihistamines listed by Mooski. Infectious rhinitis like you get with a common cold is more typically treated with the decongestant class that rabbit rabbit mentioned. Rinses could work for either one.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:41 AM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sudafed (and any pseudoephendrines) are not antihistamines -- they're decongestants.

OP, if you only want to control a runny nose, then the only thing you need is an antihistamine. If your sinuses are also stuffed up, then you can add a decongestant to the mix.
posted by scody at 11:41 AM on December 27, 2013

Best answer: I am recommending Sudafed because it dries you out like nothing else. Antihistamines which do not cause drowsiness (and OP wants to go to a social event, so the drowsy ones aren't good choices) haven't really been shown to work when the runny nose is due to a cold and not allergies. Citation.

OP, different things work for different people, but I can tell you that Sudafed makes my runny nose stop running when I have a cold.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:45 AM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Decongestants are the best tool for the job, because it's their job to reduce the formation of mucus. Thus, even if you're not congested, a decongestant will usually fix a runny nose. Spray products containing oxymetazoline are pretty good in my experience. In fact, I have to be careful with the dosage because they make my nose painfully dry.
posted by pipeski at 11:52 AM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Be careful with those sprays, though, because they can be "addictive", or at least habit-forming -- you build up a tolerance pretty quick and there can be a withdrawal period.

As mentioned above, antihistamines are the best bet to dry out your nose. Pseudoephedrine is the best decongestant, but because it's an important precursor for methamphetamine you have to get it behind the counter (and the decongestants you can get on the shelf aren't any better than placebo). I've also had good luck with a hypertonic (i.e. extra salt) saline rinse to dry out my nose, but I doubt the effect would last through a whole party.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:01 PM on December 27, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for that citation rabbitrabbit, that's exactly the kind of info I was looking for. The antihistamine I'm most familiar with is diphenhydramine and it knocks me right out, so that probably isn't ideal, especially if it isn't clear if it'll actually help a runny nose that isn't allergies.

So it looks like either a spray decongestant or pseudoephedrine are my best bets. Assuming I can convince a pharmacist I'm not going to make meth with the pseudo.
posted by cirrostratus at 12:01 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a cold right now, and a combination of Sudafed and Afrin is mostly keeping my runny nose at bay. Just be careful taking Sudafed at night, it will keep you up, especially in combination with caffeine.
posted by radioamy at 1:45 PM on December 27, 2013

If you just need to be non-sniffly for an event, then a spray decongestant like Afrin is the best way to go.

Like others have mentioned, it's not a long-term solution, since you can only use it a couple of nights in a row or risk rebound congestion, but as a one-time thing, it will dry you up like no one's business.

Just get the littlest generic bottle - should only run you $2-3. But do make sure it has oxymetazoline and not the other combo of ingredients - the "Compare to Afrin" sprays are the only ones that work.
posted by clerestory at 5:15 PM on December 27, 2013

Avoid the "if a little is good, a lot is better" trap. Larger doses frequently produce a "rebound" where, when it starts to wear off, the congestion and dripping return stronger than before.

I'm 70 and have had a continuous post-nasal drip since I was 10. All I need to do is sneeze a couple of times in the morning and the faucet is on all day. I get rebounds with a vengeance from Sudafed, Benadryl and anything and everything else.

Kleenex and its clones are cheap. Get soft ones, with no additions and no scent. And a big wastebasket.
posted by KRS at 10:08 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

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