What Is Oxymetazoline Hydrochloride?

Melissa Barrett

Oxymetazoline hydrochloride is a drug that constricts blood vessels. In over-the-counter medications like Afrin™, this medication acts as a topical decongestant by reducing swelling in the nasal passages. When used optically in medications like Visine™, it can reduce redness and irritation by temporarily shrinking the small blood vessels on the surface of the eye. Products containing these drugs are occasionally used in home remedies to treat tinnitus or ear infections.

Oxymetazoline hydrochloride is commonly used in nasal sprays.
Oxymetazoline hydrochloride is commonly used in nasal sprays.

Localized side effects of this drug have been reported in both nasal and optical use. Increased mucus production is commonly reported by individuals using the nasal spray. Curiously, nasal dryness is the second most reported side effect of the drug. Stinging and burning of the treated areas are common complaints with both nasal and optical use.

People who take a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) for depression should avoid any interactions with oxymetazoline hydrochloride.
People who take a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) for depression should avoid any interactions with oxymetazoline hydrochloride.

Although oxymetazoline hydrochloride is typically used in small amounts in nasal sprays, direct contact with mucus membranes can cause overabsorption into the blood stream. In these cases, the side effects of this medication include nervousness, irritation, and insomnia. Vomiting and upset stomach are also possible when using this medicine. Vertigo can be an early warning to more serious adverse reactions like high blood pressure and increased heart rate. These side effects are also possible, though far less common, when using eye drops containing this medication.

Decongestant nasal spray may cause mild nose bleeding as a side effect.
Decongestant nasal spray may cause mild nose bleeding as a side effect.

Systematic allergic reactions to oxymetazoline hydrochloride are rare, but they have been reported. Individuals who experience severe difficulty in breathing within 30 minutes of taking this medication should immediately discontinue its use and contact a medical professional. Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat are also signs of a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Oxymetazoline hydrochloride can reduce redness and irritation of the eyes.
Oxymetazoline hydrochloride can reduce redness and irritation of the eyes.

This drug is known to interact with several other medications. Patients who have been prescribed certain monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, such as phenelzine or rasagiline, should not use products containing oxymetazoline hydrochloride. In addition, many antidepressants and blood control prescriptions can also react negatively with this medication.

Individuals with certain medical conditions are advised against using oxymetazoline hydrochloride. Glaucoma patients should refrain from the use of eye drops containing the drug. Those with high blood pressure, diabetes, and thyroid disease are also advised against its usage. The safety of this medication in children and pregnant women has not been properly studied.

Persons using products containing this drug should carefully follow the labeled directions. It is generally not advised to use nasal sprays more than twice a day or for more than three days consecutively. Eye drops containing oxymetazoline hydrochloride are usually restricted to four applications in a 24-hour period. Exceeding these dosage recommendations can drastically increase the potential for serious side effects. This medication is not approved for use in the ears.

Overuse or incorrect use of oxymetazoline hydrochloride nasal sprays can dramatically increase the risks of side effects.
Overuse or incorrect use of oxymetazoline hydrochloride nasal sprays can dramatically increase the risks of side effects.

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