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What is a Nasal Pump?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A nasal pump is a device allowing delivery of medication or other substances into the nose. A variety of these pumps are used for both over the counter and prescription medication delivery. They may also be used for certain vaccines or for application of substances like saline water that might have benefit in clearing a small amount of nasal congestion.

Though there can be some variation, the basic nasal pump has a couple of features in common. It usually has a reservoir or bottle that holds medication that will be sprayed into the nose. Often, the bottle holds many doses, but occasionally, it can contain just one.

Another important piece of the pump is its spraying mechanism. The bottle is often topped with a cone-like piece, which may be removable for cleaning. The bottom of this cone can be surrounded by a small piece of plastic that may be pressed down to achieve a relatively fine spray of medication. Sometimes it’s necessary to press this down two to three times before use, particularly if it has been a while since last use of the nasal pump. This may be called priming the pump.

After a nasal pump has been primed, if needed, the cone-like piece is inserted in the nose at the recommended angle. Pressing the pump area delivers a spray of medication into the nose. People are normally told to avoid blowing the nose for a few minutes after use, to make sure medication is fully absorbed. After use, people are also advised to clean off the cone so that infectious germs don’t build up on it. In most cases, sharing nasal pump medication is not recommended.

A simpler pump style is occasionally available. Instead of pressing down on the cone, the bottle is just squeezed to produce an upward spray. This is thought less accurate for some types of medication delivery. Different squeezing strengths may produce greater or lesser amounts of medication. For products like saline water, where dosing is not that important, squeeze nasal pump bottles might still be considered acceptable.

As mentioned, numerous medications are given via the nose. Some of these are over the counter decongestants, and many others are prescription medications that might treat chronic allergies or inflammation. Not all medicines available in a nasal pump form are directly tied to sinus function.

One of the things that has been of concern in the pharmacy industry is that most nasal pump styles require that medications contain a large number of preservatives. These may irritate the mucus membranes and make people less compliant with nasal delivery systems. Since the early 2000s, several manufacturers have been attempting to create styles of pumps that would eliminate the need for preservative use. Success in this area is beginning to be reached, suggesting that many more medications might be pumped and sniffed instead of ingested in the near future.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia...
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