Nasal Sprays for Allergies

Nasal Decongestant Spray
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What are Prescription Nasal Sprays?

Allergy nasal sprays are the most effective medications for the treatment of nasal allergy symptoms. They're even better than oral antihistamines. Nasal sprays do, however, have a downside: They need to be used routinely to get the best results, and many people do not like the idea of putting a medication in their nose.

Side effects of nasal sprays are typically limited to nasal irritation or nose bleeds; few sprays cause any significant, body-wide side effects.

Some may experience a bad taste or smell, burning sensation, or drainage in the throat, too, although these can be minimized by using nasal spray correctly.

How Do You Use a Nasal Spray Correctly?

It seems pretty obvious. Still, most people do not use a nasal spray correctly. Incorrect use leads to an increased chance you'll suffer side effects, and a decreased chance that the medication will work as well as it could.

To correctly use a nasal spray:

  • Remove any mucus in the nasal passages by blowing your nose.
  • Shake the bottle of nose spray and the remove cap.
  • Tilt your head down (look towards the floor).
  • Hold the spray bottle in the palm of one hand and place the tip of the nozzle in the opposite nostril. (The nozzle will then point to the outer part of the nostril.)
  • As you spray the medication, sniff gently as if smelling food or a flower. Snorting the spray can cause the medication to go into the throat.
  • Repeat sprays as needed until the prescribed amount is delivered into each nostril.

Should nasal bleeding, irritation, or other unpleasant side effects occur, stop using the nasal spray for 3 to 5 days and try again. If the side effects continue to occur, stop using the nasal spray entirely and contact your doctor.

What Types of Prescription Nasal Sprays are Available?

Prescription nasal sprays include topical nasal steroids, topical nasal antihistamines, topical nasal anticholinergics, and topical nasal mast cell stabilizers.

Topical Nasal Steroids

This class of allergy medications is probably the most effective at treating nasal allergies, as well as non-allergic rhinitis. There are numerous topical nasal steroids on the market, and all are available only by prescription.

Some people note that one smells or tastes better than another, but they all work about the same.

This group of medications includes fluticasone propionate (Flonase), mometasone (Nasonex), budesonide (Rhinocort Aqua), flunisolide (Nasarel), triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ) and beclomethasone (Beconase AQ). Fluticasone furoate (Veramyst) is the newest nasal steroid of the market; it even appears to be helpful in the treatment of eye allergies.

Topical Nasal Antihistamines

At the present time, there is only one medication in this category: Azelastine (Astelin).

Astelin is effective in treating allergic and non-allergic rhinitis. It treats all nasal symptoms, similar to nasal steroids, and should be used routinely for results.

Side effects are generally mild and include nasal irritation. Some have reported sleepiness, too, as it is an older antihistamine similar to diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

Topical Nasal Anticholinergics

Nasal ipratropium (Atrovent Nasal) works to dry up nasal secretions and is recommended for the treatment of allergic rhinitis, non-allergic rhinitis and symptoms of the common cold. It works great at treating a “drippy nose,” but will not treat nasal itching or nasal congestion symptoms.

Side effects are mild and typically include nasal irritation and dryness.

Topical Nasal Mast Cell Stabilizers

Cromolyn (NasalCrom) is a medication that can prevent symptoms of nasal allergies when used before exposure to allergens. This medication prevents mast cells from releasing chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. The medication does not treat allergy symptoms once they have occurred, however. Therefore, it has only limited usefulness for most people.

NasalCrom is now also available over-the-counter without a prescription.

See pictures and more information on the most common used nasal sprays used to treat allergies.

Want to keep learning? Find out about all of the available medications for the treatment of allergic rhinitis.


Kaiser HB, et al. Fluticasone Furoate Nasal Spray: A Single Treatment Option for the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis. J Clin Allergy Immunol. 2007 Jun;119(6):1430-7.

Lieberman P. Azelastine Nasal Spray: A Review of Pharmacology and Clinical Efficacy in Allergic and Nonallergic Rhinitis. Allergy and Asthma Proc. 2003; 24:95-105.

Weiner JM, et al. Intranasal Corticosteroids Versus Oral H1 Receptor Antagonists in Allergic Rhinitis: Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. BMJ 1998;317(7173):1624-9.

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