The second my nose starts to run or my throat starts to scratch, I run to the local Walgreens and pick up non-drowsy, over-the-counter decongestants. I don’t have time for a nasty cold, so I’ll do anything to fight it off. But more often than not, I end up getting sick anyway, and the $12 I spent on medicine feels like a waste. According to a recent Forbes story, that $12, and the $8 billion Americans spend annually on drugstore decongestants, is a huge waste.
A new study presented in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice says that the oral decongestant found in these medicines simply does not work. Products containing phenylephrine—the majority of oral decongestants on the shelf list it as an active ingredient—act as nothing more than a placebo. So what to do if you’re dying from a bad cold? The researchers recommend cold- and allergy-sufferers choose a pseudoephedrine product from behind the counter, or nasal steroids.