Understanding The Differences In Nasal Sprays

Nasal sprays are a popular solution for patients with nasal congestion, allergies, and viruses. However, with many different options available over the counter, it can be difficult to know which nasal spray is best for specific conditions.Reddy Sinus’ otolaryngologists discuss different categories of nasal sprays, their uses, and potential side effects & downsides.

Decongestant Nasal Spray

Decongestant nasal sprays are a popular option that shrinks blood vessels within the nasal cavity. This constriction helps to increase airflow and relieve nasal obstruction due to allergies or viruses. However, the overuse of these sprays can lead to addiction, or rhinitis medicamentosa. The rebound swelling that occurs from using these sprays can happen within three to four days and can be a problem for patients who have severe nasal obstruction. 

You’ll see a warning label that says, don’t use for more than 48 to 72 hours and that typically is rather true. Sometimes one of the hardest things for patients with severe nasal obstruction is getting off of these nasal sprays. Use these in a short duration for acute swelling and from bad viruses or bad allergies that may just need a little relief from congestion.

Antihistamine Nasal Sprays

Antihistamine sprays are another common nasal spray used to dry up the nose, decrease mucus, and decongest the nasal cavity. There are a few different brands of antihistamine sprays, but they’re essentially the equivalent of taking a Claritin or a Zyrtec or an Allegra or Xyzal and then crushing it up, putting it, mixing with fluid, putting in a spray and spraying it on your nose.They tend to work much more quickly than decongestant sprays and have fewer side effects. However, some patients may experience an unpleasant taste, fatigue, or other side effects. 

The best thing to do for these sprays just to tolerate the bitter taste, is to make sure your head is level or a little bit forward. You can even have some of the spray come out the front and that allows you to tolerate them better. If this class of sprays consistently makes you drowsy, avoid them and your ENT can help find a different solution. 

Steroid Sprays

Intranasal steroids or intranasal corticosteroids are another category of nasal sprays that are often prescribed by doctors or available over the counter. They include brands like Flonase, Fluticasone, and Flunisolide, among others. These sprays are a type of anti-inflammatory medication that works to decrease swelling in the nasal cavity, making it easier to breathe.

It is important to talk to a doctor or medical professional before starting any nasal spray, especially if patients are experiencing severe symptoms or have other medical conditions. While nasal sprays can provide relief, overuse or misuse can lead to more severe symptoms and should be avoided.

Saline Sprays

Saline Sprays help to cleanse sinuses of dirt, pollen, and debris that settle in the nasal cavity. By helping to thin the mucus it allows for allergens to be transported out of your nose. Most saline options, unless you’ve had sinus surgery, are really cleansing the nasal cavity and not necessarily cleansing all of the sinuses, but they do a very thorough job at just cleaning out the turbinate and the filters in the nose This decreases your contact exposure to those allergens irritants and can even be helpful during acute infections to thin the mucus out when it’s real thick, sticky, or even if there’s like a mild sinus infection to help thin some of that out to help your body flush and clean that stuff out of there.

Tips for Using Sinus Sprays

A common question we get asked is how do you use a nasal spray? One of the easiest ways to use it is you put it in your nostril and you point the tip away from your septum, so away from the midline and you kind of aim it towards the inside corner of that eye, at about a 45 degree angle to the floor. Proper application makes it easier and more effective, especially for people who use nasal sprays on a daily or chronic basis. 

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