Nasal ephedrine

  • Ephedrine nasal drops relieve nasal congestion.
  • Do not use these drops for more than seven days at a time.

About ephedrine nasal drops

Type of medicine Nasal decongestant
Used for Nasal congestion (a blocked-up nose)
Available as Nasal drops

A common symptom of a cold is a blocked (congested) nose. A stuffy, blocked-up feeling in your nose can also occur in the absence of a cold. This is because the inside lining of your nose is sensitive to changes in the atmosphere (such as temperature and humidity changes) and this also can lead to symptoms of nasal congestion.

You may find a hot steamy shower or a steam inhalation will help to clear a blocked nose but, where this does not provide sufficient relief, a decongestant such as ephedrine may be useful. Ephedrine causes the small blood vessels in your nose to become narrower. This reduces the thickness of the lining of your nose which is causing the congestion, and relieves the blocked-up feelings.

Ephedrine nasal drops are available on prescription, or you can buy them without a prescription to use for up to seven days. Ephedrine nasal drops can be used by adults and by children aged 12 years or over. They should not be used by children under 12 years of age.

Before using ephedrine nasal drops

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start using ephedrine it is important that your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or blood vessel disease, or glaucoma (increased pressure in your eyes).
  • If you have problems with your thyroid, prostate or kidneys.
  • If you have any difficulties passing urine.
  • If you have recently had surgery on your nose or sinuses.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
  • If you are taking any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines. You must not use ephedrine if you have taken a medicine for depression, known as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) within the previous two weeks.

Getting the most from your treatment

  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. This will give you a step-by-step guide of how to use the drops, and will also give you a full list of possible side-effects from using them.
  • The usual dose is one or two drops into each nostril, three or four times a day when needed. Do not use the drops more than four times a day.
  • Do not use ephedrine drops for more than seven days at a time. This is because if you use them for longer periods of time than this, your symptoms are likely to come straight back again when you stop using them. This is called rebound congestion.
  • To avoid spreading infection from one person to another, the nasal drops should only be used by one person. Do not share the same bottle with other people.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are using ephedrine nasal drops.

How to use ephedrine nasal drops

  • Blow your nose gently.
  • Unscrew the dropper from the bottle, and part-fill it with solution by squeezing the bulb of the dropper.
  • Tilt your head back a little.
  • Gently squeeze the bulb of the dropper to release two or three drops of solution into each of your nostrils. Try not to touch your nose with the dropper as you do this.
  • Keep your head tilted back for a few moments to allow the drops to spread through your nose.
  • Replace the dropper on to the bottle.

Can ephedrine nasal drops cause problems?

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Possible ephedrine nasal drop side-effects - these are generally mild and occur infrequently What can I do if I experience this?
Irritation in your nose such as burning, soreness, dryness, stinging, itching or sneezing These should soon pass. If any become troublesome, ask your pharmacist for advice
Feeling sick Avoid rich or spicy foods
Headache Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to these drops, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

How to store ephedrine nasal drops

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Do not keep part-used bottles of nasal drops. Throw away any unused solution after each course of treatment.