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What are the Different Nasal Spray Side Effects?

By Lisa Bower
Updated May 17, 2024
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Over-the-counter nasal spray is a type of medication that usually helps individuals relieve congestion issues. Like most medications, there are some nasal spray side effects to be aware of before using it for short- or long-term help with stuffiness or a runny nose. Nasal sprays are designed to help relieve cold and allergy symptoms so that people can sleep more than an hour or two at a time, or so that the symptoms don't disrupt work or school performance.

For the most part, over-the-counter nasal sprays work by constricting the blood vessels in the nose. This usually can provide some relief. However, the effects of nasal spray are temporary and usually work only a few hours at a time. This can lead to overuse of nasal spray, resulting in nasal spray side effects.

The most common side effect of over-the-counter decongestant nasal spray is rhinitis, commonly called the rebound effect. If the treatment is used for more than three or four days, congestion can increase whenever the spray is not used. This can create an addictive cycle where the spray has to be used more often to keep the nasal passages clear. To stop this rebound effect, a person may need steroid or prescription-strength spray to remedy the rhinitis.

Steroid and prescription-based sprays like Rhinocort™ generally are used to treat severe allergies and colds. Additionally, such nasal sprays also can be used after nasal surgeries, such as polyp removal surgery. Such medications can lower blood cell levels that fight infection. This could be dangerous if the individual using the steroid nasal spray is exposed to chicken pox.

Nasal spray side effects of using powerful steroid and prescription-based sprays are that it may result in some lethargy and sleepiness. This can make it difficult to stay alert. Other side effects of steroid nasal sprays could include some bruising, acne, production of facial hair, a dry or sore throat, and frequent nosebleeds.

Similar to steroid nasal spray is the antihistamine Azelastine, commonly called Astelin™. This medication is used to treat allergic and non-allergic forms of rhinitis. The side effects of the spray most commonly are nasal irritation, nosebleeds, and sleepiness.

There also are cell stabilizing nasal sprays like Cromolyn™. This medication generally alleviates allergy symptoms by stopping nose cells from releasing certain chemicals. It does not however treat the symptoms of colds and allergies once they begin; once the nose starts running, using more of the spray will not alleviate the symptoms. Such nasal sprays are only effective for some people. Common nasal spray side effects of stabilizers typically include some irritation of the nose, coughing, slight difficulty breathing, and throat irritation.

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Discussion Comments

By Raynbow — On Sep 13, 2014

The rebound effect of using decongestant nasal sprays is the most concerning side effect in my opinion. I have a friend who is addicted to her spray, and she has a constant stuffy nose when she isn't using it. It is also not easy to quit using a decongestant nasal spray after years of use, because the inability to breathe through your nose when you stop using it is severe. That is why my friend is reluctant to quit, even though she knows that constant use of these sprays is not good for her.

The best thing that anyone who must use a nasal spray can do is to limit the use of it to a short time. Usually several days to a week is the time limit recommended by the manufacturer.

Though it's refreshing to be able to breathe after using these sprays, it's also important that users keep the addiction factor in mind. They also need to realize that it is much easier to quit using one after a few weeks than it is after several years.

By Heavanet — On Sep 12, 2014

@ocelot60- First of all, I think that you should discuss this symptom with your doctor to make sure that it is safe for your to continue using a decongestant nose spray. If your doctor says that it is, you should ask him or her about taking an over-the-counter pain reliever to take away your headache while you use your nasal spray. This should do the trick, provided that you don't have any other health problems that prevent you from using this type of pain reliever.

By Ocelot60 — On Sep 11, 2014

I occasionally have to use a nose spray for nasal congestion. Though it relieves my symptoms of stuffy nose, it sometimes causes me to have a headache. How can I counteract this side effect so I can still get the relief I need for my nasal congestion?

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