Phenylephrine is an active ingredient that has different uses in over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. When used as a nasal decongestant, phenylephrine relieves a stuffy nose due to the common cold or other ailments. Phenylephrine also shrinks the swelling caused by hemorrhoids. It may be written as phenylephrine or phenylephrine hydrochloride, but it is the same active ingredient.
Phenylephrine can be found in single-ingredient oral nasal decongestant medicines or it can be combined with other ingredients in multi-symptom cold products. Phenylephrine is also available as a single ingredient in topical nasal decongestants. In topical hemorrhoid treatment medicines, phenylephrine is combined with other active ingredients that not only shrink swelling, but also protect irritated skin and relieve additional symptoms such as pain, burning, and itching.
Phenylephrine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is safe and effective when used according to the Drug Facts label. Topical nasal decongestants, which are available in both sprays and drops, should be applied directly to the inside of the nose. The medicine dispenser (spray bottle or dropper) should be wiped clean after each use and should not be shared with more than one person to avoid spreading infection.