Nasal Sprays De-mistified
Mar 23rd, 2016
Nasal Sprays Buying Guide
If you suffer from nasal and sinus problems, you’re not alone. About 30 million American adults suffer at least one bout of sinusitis—inflammation of the nasal passages and sinuses—each year. Fortunately, a wide range of products is available to manage nasal and sinus irritations, and this guide will help you find a nasal spray product to fit your health needs, lifestyle, and budget. Keep the following in mind as you choose a nasal spray:
- Many minor nasal and sinus problems can be treated at home with over-the counter products. However, call your doctor if you experience persistent and severe sinus pain, if you have a fever lasting more than a day, if you experience tooth and dental pain, or if you have yellow, green, or bloody nasal discharge. These symptoms may signal a more serious health problem.
- If you are managing a health condition, consider your medications when selecting a nasal spray. Consult your doctor or pharmacist about your safest options.
- Use over-the-counter and prescription nasal sprays according to package directions and compare ingredients to avoid accidentally taking two medications together that contain the same active ingredients.
- Over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays work best when taken occasionally, for a few days at a time. When taken long-term, these medications can lose their effectiveness and may even worsen symptoms.
Decongestant Nasal Sprays
What they are: Over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays contain oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, xylometazoline, or naphazoline, which are medications that open up nasal passages by constricting blood vessels in the lining of the nose.
Why to buy: These products offer quick relief from nasal and sinus congestion, they are available at any pharmacy, and they are relatively inexpensive.
Things to consider: Decongestant nasal sprays should not be taken for more than five days at a time. Use for more than a few days can lead to a worsening of symptoms, a condition called rebound effect or rhinitis medicamentosa. Do not use these products without consulting your doctor if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or irregular heart beats, thyroid problems, diabetes, glaucoma or increased pressure in the eye, an enlarged prostate or difficulty urinating, liver disease, kidney disease, or are taking a MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) medication.
Saline Nasal Sprays
What they are: Saline nasal sprays are a mild salt water solution used to flush out the sinuses and rinse away mucus, allergens, and other debris that can irritate the nasal lining and sinuses. Saline rinses using a neti pot or other irrigation systems are another alternative.
Why to buy: These products may be helpful for people with seasonal allergies, dry nasal passages, or thick mucus due to a cold or sinus infection. Rinsing away allergens, bacteria, and other irritants may lessen symptoms.
Things to consider: Saline nasal sprays are available over the counter and are safe and easy to use. If you are trying to limit your use of decongestant nasal sprays to avoid rebound effect, saline sprays may be a good option.
Natural & Homeopathic Nasal Sprays
What they are: Natural and homeopathic nasal sprays often use a saline solution as a base and contain added natural ingredients, such as capsaicin to ease pain and inflammation, nettle for allergies, peppermint to clear sinuses, feverfew for headaches, and zinc for colds.
Why to buy: Some of the individual ingredients in natural nasal sprays are research-proven to help specific symptoms when taken orally or applied topically, such as nettle for allergies, feverfew for headaches, and capsaicin for pain. Most are not well studied for use in nasal sprays, but are generally considered safe when used as directed. They may provide more relief than saline spray alone.
Things to consider: Most of the herbs and other ingredients in natural nasal sprays have a good track record of safety, but zinc nasal sprays have caused permanent loss of smell in some people and all of these substances may potentially interact with medications. If in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist if these products are safe for you, especially if you regularly use other over-the-counter or prescription medications.
Antihistamine Nasal Sprays
What they are: Antihistamine nasal sprays are available by prescription only and contain medications which lessen nasal and sinus allergy symptoms.
Why to buy: If you have seasonal allergies or hay fever that cause significant discomfort and that are not well managed with other medications or lifestyle changes, an antihistamine nasal spray may be a good option.
Things to consider: These products alleviate nasal and sinus symptoms related to allergies. They will not lessen symptoms of a cold or other non-allergy symptoms. Antihistamine nasal sprays can cause drowsiness, fatigue, and nosebleeds in a small percentage of people who use them.
Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays
What they are: Corticosteroid nasal sprays are available by prescription only and contain medications to lessen sinus inflammation and pain due to a variety of causes.
Why to buy: Corticosteroid nasal sprays often are used to manage nasal and sinus symptoms due to allergies, but can reduce inflammation due to other causes as well. If you have chronic sinusitis, these products may be a good option for you.
Things to consider: Symptoms often return when corticosteroid nasal sprays are stopped, so they may be prescribed for years. To date, no studies have identified health risks linked to long-term use. Corticosteroid nasal sprays can cause burning, dryness, irritation and itching in the nose and throat, nosebleeds, runny nose, headaches or upset stomach in some people.