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Take Care with Nasal Sprays

Many people turn to a medicated nasal decongestant spray to offer fast relief for a congested and running nose. It can reduce swelling and clear mucus from nasal passages quickly.

In fact, these products often work so well that people are tempted to use them for too long. If you use a medicated nasal spray for more than 3 days in a row, you may develop rebound rhinitis medicamentosa (RM) when you do stop using the spray. This condition can cause prolonged sinus congestion and even may damage your nasal passages over time.

RM can be quite uncomfortable, but using the nasal spray again helps you feel somewhat better. That’s why many people tend to keep using it, often more frequently and persistently. This creates a vicious cycle.

If you’re in this situation, ask your healthcare provider for advice on how to taper off using the spray and to help you find a safe way to deal with your congestion. And, ask your pharmacist about other choices.

Nasal sprays that contain just saline are one alternative. They moisturize the nostrils and reduce the buildup of mucus and crusts with saline. Topical steroid sprays are another alternative. Many oral over-the-counter decongestants may ease pressure in the nasal passages, but they don’t relieve a runny nose. They also can have side effects, such as lightheadedness and dizziness and may increase your blood pressure.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against using cold remedies for children. Cough and cold products are not effective in treating symptoms of children under 6 years old, and some serious health problems have been associated with use of these medicines in children. For a stuffy nose, the AAP recommends the following:

  • Use saline nose drops to thin nasal mucus. Ask your healthcare provider which ones to use. Never use nonprescription nose drops that contain any medicine.

  • Use a suction bulb to clear your baby's nose. First squeeze the bulb, then gently put the rubber tip into one nostril and slowly release the bulb. Gentle suction draws clogged mucus out of the nose. This works best for babies younger than 6 months of age.

  • A cool-mist humidifier in your child's room can helps to moisten the air and clear a child's nasal passages. Be sure to clean and dry the humidifier each day to prevent bacterial and mold contamination. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Blaivas, Allen J., DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2016
© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.