Congestion of the nasal passages and sinuses is generally a natural body response to the presence of irritants or infection. The swelling and mucus production is there to protect the body from invasion. Decongestants suppress this body healing response and should therefore only be used in extreme cases. If a patient, particularly a child, is unable to sleep or if the congestion is such that it is preventing breathing to a dangerous extent, then decongestants should be used.

Decongestants come as oral formulations, nasal sprays or drops and all should be avoided with equal effort. Natural decongestants carry the same suppressant activity but are easier for the body to break down because of their plant origins.