What is a Decongestant Nasal Spray?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

During cold season, the nasal passages can become very congested. Sometimes this condition is so severe that it can even prevent a person from sleeping. To provide quick relief, the sufferer can use a decongestant nasal spray. Nasal spray decongestants deliver a quick spray of medication to the nasal passages.

A decongestant nasal spray.
A decongestant nasal spray.

Nasal passages can become congested through other means as well. Though a cold can cause this discomfort, it can also be trigged through a sinus infection or allergies. Also known as nasal mists, nasal sprays can alleviate these symptoms by administering a dose of antihistamines, topical decongestants, or corticosteroids, depending on what the cause may be.

Nasal medication is sometimes used to deliver decongestants.
Nasal medication is sometimes used to deliver decongestants.

If allergies are the cause of the discomfort, antihistamines may be needed. During an allergic reaction, a person produces the natural chemical histamine, causing an inflammatory effect in the body. While the process is to rid the body of the substance it is allergic to, it can cause other health problems for the patient. In such cases, an antihistamine may be delivered through a prescriptive nasal spray.

Some decongestant nasal spray side effects can include nasal passage discomfort and sneezing.
Some decongestant nasal spray side effects can include nasal passage discomfort and sneezing.

Saline solutions are a popular form of decongestant nasal spray. An undedicated burst of saline solution, or saltwater, can help provide needed moisture within the nasal passages. Since dryness often causes congestion, this can provide fast relief. Using saline solution in the nasal passages is referred to as nasal irrigation.

Over-the-counter decongestant nasal spray is also available. This solution, usually made out of the drug phenylephrine hydrochloride, which constricts the blood vessels in the lining of the nose to open up the passageways. However, caution should be used when utilizing such a product, as continual use can damage the nasal mucus membranes.

A combination of sprays may also be ordered by a physician depending on a patient's needs. A decongestant nasal spray may be ordered for a period of time, and an antihistamine may be ordered simultaneously to treat allergy symptoms. This is to open up the nasal passageway before administering the medication needed.

Doctors warn patients to only use decongestant nasal sprays for a short period of time. This is because they can have a rebound affect. A rebound effect can result in a medication's causing original symptoms to return or worsen. Other decongestant nasal spray side effects can include burning, drying of the nasal passages, altered taste, sneezing, stinging, and increased nasal discharge. If severe side effects such as tremors, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, hand shaking, dizziness or weakness develop, the user should consult a doctor.

Saline nasal sprays, which consist mostly of a salt-water solution, can help break up congestion.
Saline nasal sprays, which consist mostly of a salt-water solution, can help break up congestion.
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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