The Only Right Way to Use Your Nasal Spray (2024)

Another sneeze, anothersniffle. You can’t wait to get ahold of a nasal spray so you can find relief for yourstuffy noseASAP.


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“While nasal congestion can be treated with an over-the-counter nasal spray, using the spray isn’t always as simple as seems,” says allergist Mark Aronica, MD. “Correct positioning and technique are the keys to getting the best results.”

What are nasal sprays used for?

The simple explanation of nasal sprays is that they target inflammation in your nasal passages, which reduces swelling and helps clear up stuffiness.

Some nasal sprays (steroid nasal sprays and antihistamine sprays) are specifically designed to treat allergy symptoms and can be used for the long term.

A third type, called decongestant nasal sprays, should only be used for a few days at a time, so they’re best for treating congestion caused by a cold or the flu.

How to use nasal sprays

Nasal sprays are medication — and like any medication, if you take them wrong, you won’t get their full benefits. With nasal sprays, it all comes down to proper usage.

“Technique is very important with nose sprays,” Dr. Aronica says. “Sometimes, patients tell me their spray isn’t working, but when we improve their technique, it really helps.”

Step-by-step instructions

Here’s the right way to use your nasal spray:

  1. Before applying, gently blow your nose. This will clear your nasal passages and clear the way for the medicine.
  2. Read the product directions. If it directs you to do so, be sure to shake the bottle or squirt out a small amount, which is called “priming” a nasalinhaler.
  3. Position the bottle opening under one nostril. To use your nasal spray properly, it’s important to make sure to point the spray toward the back of your nose so the medicine makes it into your sinuses. “Steer away from the midline of your nasal cavity when you squirt it in,” Dr. Aronica says.
  4. Gently squeeze or pump the bottle and, with your mouth closed, inhale slightly and gently to ensure that the product remains inside of your nose. “Usually, the pump action on the spray is enough to drive the spray into the nose and sinus,” Dr. Aronica says. “You can take a gentle sniff, but you don’t want to taste it in the back of your throat.”

Safety tips for using nasal sprays

Dr. Aronica also weighs in on a few common usage errors — things you shouldn’t do when you’re using a nasal spray.


Don’t aim toward your septum

“You never want to direct the spray at the nasal septum, which is the middle portion of your nose,” he says. When you push a spray directly onto your septum, the force can damage the tissue, and you can end up with irritation or a bloody nose.

Don’t tilt your head back

Most products can be applied while you’re in an upright position, so you don’t have to tilt your head back. “You don’t want it dripping down the back of your throat,” Dr. Aronica notes.

Don’t take a big sniff

If you suck the medicine to the back of your throat and swallow it, it doesn’t have the opportunity to do what you need it to do — get into your sinus cavity. A gentle sniff should do the trick.

Don’t blow your nose

It’s tempting to grab a tissue after you’ve used a nasal spray, but try to avoid it. “You want as much of the medicine to stay in the nose and sinus as possible,” Dr. Aronica advises.

Don’t share your nasal spray

To avoid spreading bacteria, keep your spray to yourself. You don’t want anyone else sticking something up their nose that’s just been in yours!

“Keep the bottle clean and only allow one person to use it,” he says. “Remember to wipe down the nasal spray bottle and put the cap back on after each use.”


Should you worry about the rebound effect?

Have you ever heard that if you use a nasal spray too much, you’ll stop feeling relief from them? This is called the rebound effect, but it’s only possible with one type of nasal spray — and it’s one you shouldn’t be using for more than a few days in a row, anyway.

Because there are a few different kinds of nasal sprays, it’s important to know exactly what you’re using, how often to use it and whether it’s habit-forming. Only decongestant nasal sprays can result in the rebound effort. Here’s what to know about each type:

  • Nasal steroid sprays: These once-a-day sprays are available over the counter and work best when you start using them a few weeks before allergy season starts. “They’re not habit-forming and should be used regularly for best effect,” Dr. Aronica says. They include fluticasone (Flonase®) and betamethasone (Nasacort®).
  • Antihistamine sprays: Like nasal steroid sprays, these sprays aren’t habit-forming and should be used once a day for the best results in treating your allergies. The main difference is that they’re only available with a prescription. They include azelastine (Astepro® and Astelin®) and olopatadine (Patanase®).
  • Decongestant nasal sprays: These sprays, which are good for people who have congestion from a cold or the flu, shouldn’t be used more than three or four days in a row. “Using them longer invites building up a tolerance to the medicines,” Dr. Aronica states. They include oxymetazoline hydrochloride (Afrin®, Dristan® and Sinex) and phenylephrine hydrochloride (Neo-Synephrine®).

If you experience the rebound effect from using a decongestant nasal spray, it may be accompanied by minor side effects like a bitter smell or taste, sneezing, runny nose and nasal irritation, including burning and stinging. If you experience major side effects like a change in heart rate, tremors, unusual sweating or persistent nosebleeds, consult a doctor.

When you shouldn’t use a nasal spray

While most people can safely use nasal sprays, your doctor or pharmacist may have other recommendations if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or hyperthyroidism, or if you’re taking other medications.

You also shouldn’t use a nasal spray if your nasal passages are damaged. This condition, known as rhinitis medicamentosa, happens when you use a decongestant nasal spray for longer than a few days. “When this happens, you might need more medicine to control your congestion, or your congestion might worsen if you stop using the spray,” Dr. Aronica cautions.

As always, the best thing to do is to consult your doctor to make sure that nasal spray is safe for you. With their help, you’ll be well on your way to safely getting your allergies under control.

To learn more about allergies from Dr. Aronica, listen to the Health Essentials Podcast episode,“Dealing with Spring and Summer Allergies.”New episodes of the Health Essentials Podcast publish every Wednesday.


The Only Right Way to Use Your Nasal Spray (2024)


The Only Right Way to Use Your Nasal Spray? ›

If nasal spray goes down your throat, it is generally safe and unlikely to cause harm. However, some people may experience mild and temporary symptoms such as throat irritation. Nasal sprays can help with allergies by reducing inflammation and relieving congestion.

Is it okay if nasal spray goes down the throat? ›

If nasal spray goes down your throat, it is generally safe and unlikely to cause harm. However, some people may experience mild and temporary symptoms such as throat irritation. Nasal sprays can help with allergies by reducing inflammation and relieving congestion.

What happens if you use nasal spray wrong? ›

Point the nozzle of the nasal spray container toward the back of your head. If you don't spray straight, you will waste the medicine and may cause more irritation in your nose. If the pump spray is used correctly, the spray should not drip from your nose or down the back of your throat.

Are you supposed to breathe in when using nasal spray? ›

And take a minute to learn how FLONASE Allergy Relief can provide relief from nasal congestion, plus sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, and runny nose. Breathe in easily. As you spray, just inhale gently—that's all you need to do. Breathe out gently through your mouth after each spray.

How can I make my nasal spray more effective? ›

Making sure you use saline nasal spray the right way can make it more effective:
  1. Gently blow your nose. ...
  2. Wash your hands well.
  3. Shake the bottle and take off the cap.
  4. Tilt your head back just a little bit and keep your mouth closed.
  5. Plug one nostril by pressing gently on the side of your nose.
Jun 19, 2024

Should I drink water after nasal spray? ›

If you're using a nasal spray the right way, the medication should not drip down your nose or the back of your throat. However, some nasal sprays may leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth. A drink of water or juice should help clear the aftertaste.

Is it OK to accidentally swallow nasal spray? ›

These products are intended for use in the eyes or nose only. If a child accidentally swallows these eye drops or nasal decongestant spray, call the toll-free Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222) and seek emergency medical care immediately.

Is it okay to lay down after nasal spray? ›

Inserting the entire nasal spray applicator into the nose. Angling the nasal spray toward the septum. Sniffing too hard, tilting your head back, or lying down immediately afterward. These techniques will all cause the medicine to drain down the back of your throat, reducing its effectiveness.

Is nasal spray supposed to go in your mouth? ›

Gently squeeze or pump the bottle and, with your mouth closed, inhale slightly and gently to ensure that the product remains inside of your nose. “Usually, the pump action on the spray is enough to drive the spray into the nose and sinus,” Dr. Aronica says.

What should you not do after nasal spray? ›

Squeeze the pump as you begin to breathe in slowly through your nose. Repeat these steps for the other nostril. If you are using more than one spray in each nostril, follow steps 2 through 5 again. Try not to sneeze or blow your nose just after using the spray.

Should you tilt your head back when using nasal spray? ›

The following pointers should help patients with their positioning when using a nasal spray: The head should be tilted forward slightly, with the nose in line with the toes. Use the right hand to deliver a spray into the left nostril, directing the spray towards the left ear (and vice versa).

Is it better to use nasal spray at night or in the morning? ›


Is it better to use FLONASE at night? In short, no. One daily dose of FLONASE Allergy Relief delivers 24-hour relief from your worst allergy symptoms. So, even if you take it in the morning, you're still covered for all night long, without pesky allergy symptoms.

What happens if you use nasal spray when you don't need it? ›

What is rhinitis medicamentosa (rebound congestion)? Rhinitis medicamentosa is a type of nasal congestion that occurs when you overuse nasal sprays. It causes irritation and inflammation in your nasal passages. In rhinitis medicamentosa, you have a stuffy or runny nose, but no other cold, flu or allergy symptoms.

What happens if you put too much nasal spray in your nose? ›

Overuse of nasal sprays can also lead to other side effects, including headache, coughing, nasal passage swelling (inflammation), increased risk of sinus infection, and, rarely, tears in the nostril membranes. Don't let that scare you from getting the relief you need.

What is the warning for nasal spray? ›

Do not use more often, use more sprays, or use longer than directed because doing so may increase the risk of side effects. Also, do not use this medication for more than 3 days or it may cause a condition called rebound congestion.

How long does nasal spray take to unclog nose? ›

"Since nasal decongestant sprays deliver the decongestant in a localized manner, these products relieve nasal congestion almost immediately," says Dr. Ahmed. That's the great thing about these sprays. They provide congestion relief in just minutes.

Should you use nasal spray before or after nasal rinse? ›

Irrigate your nose with saline 1 to 2 times per day. If you have been told to use nasal medication, you should always use your saline solution first. The nasal medication is much more effective when sprayed onto clean nasal membranes, and the spray will reach deeper into the nose.


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