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Nasal sprays for cold relief

Nasal sprays, nose sprays, or nasal decongestants are designed to help reduce swelling in the blocked nasal passages to relieve cold symptoms.

Some nasal sprays are available over-the-counter while others may be prescribed by a doctor. As well as sprays, nose drops are available.

When using nasal decongestants don’t use them for longer than recommended in the product instructions as this can worsen congestion.

Nasal decongestants should not be used by anyone also taking monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI antidepressants.

Some people also find that saline or salt water nasal sprays relieve mild congestion, loosen mucus, and prevent crusting.

How do you use nasal sprays?

Here are the steps to follow when you use a nasal spray:

  • Clear your nasal passageway by blowing your nose
  • Take the cap off the bottle and follow directions for shaking the bottle if necessary
  • Before you spray the medication into your nose, block one nostril by pressing a finger against it lightly
  • Put your thumb at the bottom of the pump bottle, or follow the directions if there is a different delivery system for the spray - the hole at the top of the bottle should be underneath your open nostril
  • Squeeze the pump and sniff gently - then switch to the other nostril and repeat the process
  • In order to keep the medication in your nose, don't blow your nose right away, and try not to sneeze

It's important that you follow directions from your GP, pharmacist, or from the medication package about the number of times per day you should use the treatment.

Who should not use nasal sprays?

Some people are advised to avoid using some nasal sprays to relieve cold symptoms. This includes people who have hypertension (high blood pressure) or other cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, thyroid problems, or urinary problems from benign prostatic hypertrophy, also known as an enlarged prostate. Decongestant products, including nasal sprays, can raise blood pressure and pulse rate. They can also cause tiredness and dizziness. In addition, some decongestants might interfere with other medications. Check with your GP before using these products. Saline solutions, however, may be used safely by anyone, unless advised otherwise.

Can nasal sprays worsen cold symptoms?

A condition known as rhinitis medicamentosa is caused by overusing some types of sprays. Overuse of nasal sprays causes the medication to become less effective and nasal congestion symptoms to reappear. This is also known as the "rebound effect". As a result, a person who overuses nasal sprays becomes congested more frequently, and the nasal spray is effective for a shorter time period each time the person uses it.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 20, 2017

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