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Nasal Sprays for Allergies

When allergies strike, nasal sprays can help. There are many different types of nasal sprays, and most typically work faster than pills.

You can buy a nasal spray at the drugstore, or your doctor can prescribe one to relieve a stuffy or runny nose.

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Decongestant Sprays

Decongestant sprays shrink swollen blood vessels and tissues in your nose that cause congestion. Afrin Nasal Spray, Dristan, Neo-Synephrine, and Sinex are some examples of these medicines. You can buy them over the counter.

Don’t use decongestant nasal sprays longer than three days. Using them longer can actually make your nose more stopped up. Ask your doctor before using them if you have glaucoma or high blood pressure that’s not under control.

Antihistamine Sprays

Antihistamine sprays relieve congestion, itchy and runny nose, and sneezing. They are available by prescription and include Astelin, Astepro, and Patanase. They usually cause less drowsiness than antihistamine pills, but they still may make some people sleepy.

Steroid Nasal Sprays

These sprays work very well to reduce the swelling in your nose so you can breathe better. They also help stop a drippy nose. It takes a few days to weeks before you’ll notice your symptoms getting better.

Examples of steroid nasal sprays available by prescription include Beconase, Flonase, Nasacort, Nasarel, Nasonex, Qnasl, Rhinocort, Vancenase, Veramyst, and Zetonna. Two drugs, Nasacort and Flonase, can be purchased over the counter.  

Side effects can include headache, sore throat, nosebleed, or cough.

NasalCrom (Cromolyn Sodium)

This nasal spray prevents your body from releasing histamine, the chemical that causes your allergy symptoms like runny nose and sneezing. It can also help a stuffy nose. Some people see results in only 30 minutes. For it to work best, you need to start using it one to two weeks before allergy season starts and then use it one or more times every day. It doesn’t work as well as steroid nasal sprays.

You can buy NasalCrom as a nasal spray at the drugstore.

Cromolyn is safe for most people. Ask your doctor before using it if you have wheezing from asthma or sinus pain. Side effects can include sneezing and nasal burning.

Atrovent (Ipratropium)

This prescription nasal spray treats a runny nose by stopping the production of mucus. It doesn’t relieve congestion or sneezing very well.

If you have glaucoma or an enlarged prostate, you may not be able to use Atrovent. Side effects can include headache, nosebleeds, sore throat, or nasal irritation.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on October 16, 2012

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