Nasal Sprays Work Best When You Use Them Correctly — Here’s How

Correct positioning key to getting the best results

Nasal Sprays Work Best When You Use Them Correctly -- Here's How

Sneezing and sniffling is common this time of year, but if you feel stuffy, you may find relief just a spray away — by using a non-prescription nasal decongestant spray.

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These products work by shrinking the blood vessels and tissues in the sinuses, which a cold, allergies or the flu can cause to become swollen and inflamed.

But while nasal congestion can be easily treated with an over-the-counter nasal spray, pharmacist Angela Giallourakis, PharmD, says using the spray is not as simple as it might seem. Correct positioning and technique is key to getting the best results, Dr. Giallourakis says.

Proper positioning

For example, it’s important to make sure to point the nasal spray toward the back of the nose so that you can inhale the medicine, Dr. Giallourakis says.

“You never want the spray to be directed right at the nasal septum, which is the middle portion of your nose,” Dr. Giallourakis says. “When you push a spray directly onto the septum, the spray can damage the tissue, and you can end up with some irritation or a bloody nose.”

Here are a few other suggestions Dr. Giallourakis has for using a nasal spray:

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  • Before applying, gently blow your nose. This will clear your nasal passages and clear the way for the medicine.
  • Read the product directions, and be sure to shake the bottle or squirt a small amount out if so directed. This is called priming a nasal inhaler.
  • Close one nostril by pressing your finger against it; position the bottle opening under the other nostril.
  • Gently squeeze or pump the bottle and inhale slightly and gently with your mouth closed.

Most products can be applied while you are in an upright position, so there is no need to tilt your head back, Dr. Giallourakis says.

Afterward, try to avoid blowing your nose or sneezing, and if necessary sniff hard a few times to ensure the product remains inside and can go to work.

Keep the bottle clean and only allow one person to use it. Dr. Giallourakis recommends wiping down the nasal spray bottle and putting the cap back on after each use.

“You never want to share your product with someone else,” Dr. Giallourakis says.

Rebound effect

Common minor side effects of over-the-counter nasal sprays include a bitter smell or taste, sneezing, runny nose and nasal irritation, including burning and stinging, Dr. Giallourakis says.

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You should consult a doctor if you experience any major side effects, including a change in heart rate, tremors, unusual sweating or persistent nosebleeds. You should not use a nasal spray if your nasal passages become damaged, Dr. Giallourakis says.

Nasal sprays aren’t addicting, but they can become habit-forming and in general you should not use them for more than three days, Dr. Giallourakis says. Using them longer invites building up a tolerance to the medicines, which is called the rebound effect.

When this happens, you might need more medicine to control your congestion, or your congestion might worsen if you stop using the spray.flu

In the end, you may have to stop using the spray for several weeks to reverse this effect, she says.

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