Will the nasal spray relieve my allergies, runny nose, congestion and other sinus issues?

Will the nasal spray relieve my allergies, runny nose, congestion and other sinus issues?

photo of woman using nasal spray

Saline sprays, corticosteroids, antihistamines and decongestants – oh my! There are several over-the-counter and prescription nasal sprays on the market. Knowing which to use — and how — is key to ensuring you get the best results, whether you have allergies, a sinus infection, or a cold. Below we explain the different types of nasal sprays and how to use them.

Types of nasal sprays

Nasal spray works by spraying medication or saline solution directly into your nose to relieve congestion and symptoms of seasonal allergies, sinus infections, or the common cold.

Options include:

  1. Saline spray – Saline nasal sprays contain a mixture of water and salt. They are designed to lubricate and flush the nasal passages, relieving nasal dryness, nosebleeds and congestion associated with seasonal allergies or other conditions. They are drug-free, making them safe for people of all ages, including pregnant or breastfeeding women. They are also a great option for people with nose piercings. Unlike other nasal sprays, saline sprays can be used regularly since they don’t contain medication.
  2. Corticosteroid – A nasal corticosteroid, or nasal steroid, is a medicine sprayed into your nose to relieve congestion, irritation, or discomfort associated with allergies and other sinus problems. Some are available over the counter, while others require a prescription. The recommended dosage for adults and children 12 years of age or older is two sprays into each nostril once or twice daily for up to four weeks.
  3. Antihistamine – Antihistamines work to suppress allergy symptoms — like runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes — by blocking the effects of histamine. However, they only have a modest effect on congestion, which is why they are often combined with other treatments. They can also cause drowsiness. Most are safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding, but it’s best to consult your doctor first.
  4. Decongestant – Decongestant nasal sprays shrink blood vessels and swollen tissue to relieve congestion, but they can’t help with sneezing or itching. Many are available without a prescription. However, they are not intended for children under the age of 12 or for pregnant or breastfeeding people. Also, you should not use decongestants for more than three consecutive days, as frequent use can cause rebound congestion.

How to use nasal spray

Below are instructions on how to properly use a pump nasal spray:

  1. Gently blow your nose to remove mucus.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  3. Gently shake the nasal spray bottle and remove the cap.
  4. Tilt your head back slightly.
  5. Close one nostril by pressing gently against the side of your nose with your finger.
  6. Gently insert the tip of the nasal spray into the other nostril.
  7. Point the tip towards the back, the outer side of your nose. Be sure to direct the spray straight back, not at the tip of your nose, as this could hurt your nose.
  8. Squeeze the nasal spray while slowly inhaling the liquid.
  9. Remove the nasal spray from your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  10. Repeat these steps for your other nostril if necessary.
  11. Wipe the nasal spray tip with a tissue or alcohol swab, then replace the cap.
  12. Avoid sneezing or blowing your nose immediately after using the nasal spray.

When used correctly, nasal sprays should not cause nosebleeds. As mentioned above, inserting the tip the wrong way could hurt your nose. If you have a nosebleed, you should contact your doctor to make sure you are using the product correctly. Also, the solution should not run down your nose or down your throat. However, some nasal sprays can leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth. If you experience this, try taking a sip of water or juice to lessen the aftertaste.

A rebound effect may occur if you regularly use over-the-counter nasal decongestants. After a few days of using this type of nasal spray, your nose may become less sensitive to the medication. Therefore, you may need to use more of it to control your congestion. Your congestion may also get worse if you stop using the medicine. Some people may confuse this rebound effect with addiction, but it is not.

Choosing the right nasal spray for your condition

If you are unsure which nasal spray is right for you; it is a good idea to consult a doctor. Ear, nose and throat specialists, also known as ear, nose and throat specialists or ENT doctors, are specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose and throat conditions. Depending on your situation, they may recommend a combination of nasal treatments to relieve your symptoms. Either way, it’s important to understand the recommended protocol to ensure you get the best results.

“Unfortunately, some patients who are prescribed nasal steroids in conjunction with saline sprays mistakenly use the steroids first,” says Tony Richa, MD, head and neck surgeon at Nebraska Medicine. “It’s important to use the saline spray first, then the steroid. If you use the spray after the steroid, you’re essentially eliminating the drug, which defeats the purpose.”

Bottom Line: If you’re not sure what to use for your condition or wondering if you should see a doctor, we’re here to help. Call our ENT team at 402.922.0000.

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