British Medical Journal. Best practice common cold. 2022. (accessed 15 December 2022)

British National Formulary. Treatment summary: influenza. 2022a. (accessed 15 December 2022)

British National Formulary. Phenylephrine hydrochloride: side effects. 2022b. (accessed 15 December 2022)

Oseltamivir (tamiflu) induced depressive episode in a female adolescent. 2010.

Pseudoephedrine-benefits and risks. 2021.

Efficacy and safety of sea salt-derived physiological saline nasal spray as add-on therapy in patients with acute upper respiratory infection: a multicenter retrospective cohort study. 2021.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Common cold management. 2022. (accessed 15 December 2022)

UK Health Security Agency. Weekly national influenza and covid-19 report week 49 report (up to week 48 data). 2022. (accessed 15 December 2022)

World Health Organization. Influenza (seasonal). 2022. (accessed 15 December 2022)

Side effects of decongestants in cold and flu season

02 January 2023
Volume 5 · Issue 1

There are over 200 subtypes of the common cold (British Medical Journal (BMJ), 2022) and most people experience one cold in a year, which is usually self-limiting and lasts less than a week (BMJ, 2022). This involves inflammation of the upper respiratory tract mucosa, which may affect the nose, throat, sinuses and larynx, producing sore throat, sneezing, blocked or runny nose, headaches, cough, malaise and low-level fever. However, frailer patients are at higher risk of a more severe degree of illness from a cold.

Flu is a more severe illness that has similar symptoms to the common cold, and can have a detrimental impact on the vulnerable. Influenza is categorised as type A, B or C. Type A is more virulent and frequent, B involves milder disease but can still cause outbreaks, and C causes mild or no symptoms which are similar to the common cold (British National Formulary (BNF), 2022a). With flu, you may see more extreme fatigue, chills, fever and myalgia, and there may be a dry cough and nasal congestion. Complications of flu include bronchitis, secondary bacterial pneumonia, and may at times be cardiac or neurological in presentation (BNF, 2022a).

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting Journal of Prescribing Practice and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for prescribing professionals. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to our clinical or professional articles

  • New content and clinical newsletter updates each month