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Nasal decongestants of 'modest' benefit in colds

Nasal decongestants are only modestly useful for reducing common cold symptoms but side-effects are rare and mild, a new gold standard review concludes.

Estimates are that adults

and children suffer from a

cold an average of two or more times a year, of which nasal congestion is the most common symptom.

But there had previously been no meta-analysis of controlled trials to review the effects of decongestants at reducing symptoms.

The new Cochrane review analysed seven studies in adults, and found a 'small but significant' 6 per cent decrease in the subjectively assessed symptoms of those who had taken nasal decongestants.

With repeated doses, nasal decongestants produced a

very small statistical benefit of 4 per cent over three to five days. Two studies showed there was a small number of adverse events.

Dr David Taverner, a researcher for the Cochrane acute respiratory infections group, said: 'A single oral dose of nasal decongestant in the common cold is modestly effective for the short-term relief of congestion in adults, and these drugs also provide benefit is some individuals after regular use over three to five days.'

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