Updated 23 July 2014

How to use a nasal spray properly

Nasal sprays are pretty useful in getting cold and allergy symptoms under control. Are you using yours correctly?

Several types of medication are sold as nasal sprays. These fall roughly into three categories, namely overt-the-counter cold and allergy medication, prescription allergy medication, and medication administered nasally for other conditions.

These sprays are used for the treatment of cold or allergy symptoms, which could include itching, sneezing or nasal congestion.

The lining of your nose has many blood vessels, so medication administered here is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. The normal clearance of mucus towards the throat becomes obstructed, and this causes a build-up of mucus in the sinus cavities.

Read: Enzymes and allergies

Saline solutions could reduce the symptoms of nasal congestion and irritation, and even nasal dryness. If the problem persists, you might need to ask your doctor or pharmacist for a specific decongestant.

Most nasal sprays spray a fine mist of the medication into the nostrils. The bottles usually have a small hand-operated pump over the opening, or a pressurized canister.

There should always be clear instructions on the product on how to use the spray. Ask your pharmacist if you experience any difficulties.

Here are some basic tips on using a pressurized canister or pump bottle correctly:

• Blow your nose to make sure you get rid of any mucus before you use the nasal spray.
• Shake the canister or spray bottle properly before using it.
• When using a spray canister, you might have to prime it by pressing it a few times before
   anything comes out.
• Put the bottle or canister tip into your nostril.
• Hold your head upright and press on the side of your nose to close off the other nostril.
• Direct the tip of the bottle towards the back and outer side of your nose; not towards the   
   tip of your nose.
• Breathe in and sniff gently as you squeeze the spray into your nose. Don’t snort –              
   everything will go straight into your throat.
• Breathe out through your mouth after you’ve removed the tip of the bottle from your nose.
• Don’t blow your nose and try not to sneeze directly after administering the spray.
• Now do the same thing described above to the other nostril.

Read: Diagnosing allergies

Some important points to remember about nasal sprays:

• Nasal decongestants shouldn’t be used for more than a week, as it could cause a 
   condition called rebound congestion. Your nasal passages might become and remain
   congested unless you use decongestant spray.
• If the nasal spray is dripping from your nose or down the back of your throat, you’re   
   possibly spraying too much into your nose, or you could be spraying it at an incorrect
   angle. Reread the instructions carefully.
• Clean the nozzle of the spray bottle if it becomes clogged.
• Never share your nasal spray with other people, as infections can easily be spread in this
• If nasal sprays cause an unpleasant taste in your mouth, have some fruit juice or water     
   immediately after administering the nasal spray.
• If a nasal spray makes your nose sting, or itch, or bleed, speak to your doctor or     
   pharmacist. Don’t just carry on using it.
• Nasal spray is liquid medication that can easily become contaminated. Follow the       
   instructions on storing it, keep it out of the reach of children, and don’t use it once it has
   passed its expiry date.
• Certain medicines that are administered as a nasal spray aren’t for nasal or sinus      
   problems. This includes a spray that helps your body control its calcium levels in an effort
   to prevent or treat osteoporosis. There are also migraine medications that are
   administered by nasal spray.

Read more
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Does my child have a cold or an allergy?

Image: Adolescent using nose spray from Shutterstock

Source: Safe medication,, Health24, WebMD         


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Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies. obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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