Best OTC Meds for Runny Noses

A runny nose, also known as rhinorrhea, is a common symptom that many people experience, especially during cold and flu season. It can be caused by various factors, including allergies, colds, flu, sinus infections, and even changes in weather. While a runny nose can be bothersome, there are several over-the-counter (OTC) medications available that can help alleviate this symptom. Here are some of the best OTC meds for runny noses:

  1. Antihistamines
    • Overview: Antihistamines are commonly used to treat allergic reactions. They work by blocking the action of histamine, a chemical released by the body during an allergic reaction.
    • Examples: Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Loratadine (Claritin), Cetirizine (Zyrtec), and Fexofenadine (Allegra).
    • Usage: They are effective for treating runny noses caused by allergies. However, some antihistamines can cause drowsiness, so it’s essential to choose a non-drowsy formula if you need to stay alert.
  2. Decongestants
    • Overview: Decongestants help reduce nasal congestion by narrowing the blood vessels in the nasal passages.
    • Examples: Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and Phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine).
    • Usage: They can be effective for short-term relief from a runny nose caused by colds or sinus infections. However, they should not be used for extended periods as they can lead to rebound congestion.
  3. Nasal Sprays
    • Overview: Nasal sprays can provide direct relief to the nasal passages. They come in various types, including saline solutions, steroid sprays, and antihistamine sprays.
    • Examples: Fluticasone (Flonase), Triamcinolone (Nasacort), and Azelastine (Astelin).
    • Usage: They can be effective for both allergic and non-allergic runny noses. It’s essential to follow the recommended dosage and not overuse them.
  4. Combination Medications
    • Overview: Some OTC meds combine an antihistamine with a decongestant for dual action.
    • Examples: Loratadine and Pseudoephedrine (Claritin-D) and Cetirizine and Pseudoephedrine (Zyrtec-D).
    • Usage: These can be particularly effective for those experiencing multiple symptoms, such as a runny nose and congestion.
  5. Natural Remedies
    • Overview: For those who prefer a more natural approach, there are several remedies that can help alleviate a runny nose.
    • Examples: Saline nasal sprays, steam inhalation, and herbal teas like peppermint or ginger.
    • Usage: These can provide relief without the potential side effects of medications.


While a runny nose can be a nuisance, there are several OTC medications available to help manage this symptom. It’s essential to choose the right medication based on the cause of your runny nose and to follow the recommended dosage. If your symptoms persist or if you experience severe side effects, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional. Remember, while OTC meds can provide relief, it’s always best to address the root cause of the symptom for long-term relief.