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Can Nasal Steroids Ease Allergy Symptoms?

If you suffer allergy symptoms, you know how miserable these symptoms can make you feel. If the allergy meds you've tried do not relieve your symptoms, ask your doctor if a nasal steroid is right for you.

Most inhaled nasal steroids are available only by prescription. Two, Nasacort and Flonase, are available over the counter. Nasal steroids can help ease nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, a runny, itchy nose, and postnasal drip when antihistamines haven’t worked.

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How do nasal steroids ease allergy symptoms?

Allergy symptoms such as nasal congestion are caused by inflammation (swelling). Inhaled nasal steroids reduce swelling, mucus production, and nasal congestion.  As a result, the nasal passages are less sensitive and less likely to react to allergy triggers (like pollen, animal dander, or dust mites).

Are inhaled nasal steroids dangerous?

Inhaled steroids are not the same as anabolic steroids some professional athletes take to bulk up their muscles. Instead, they are corticosteroids. These are some of the most effective medicines to treat allergy symptoms -- and the benefits far outweigh their risks, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.

When steroid pills are taken for a long period, there is a potential for serious side effects because the steroids go to all parts of your body. But nasal steroids are delivered directly to the nose. Most allergy experts feel there is little, if any, risk of serious side effects, such as cataracts or bone fractures.

How long does it take for inhaled nasal steroids to reduce allergy symptoms?

While nasal steroids begin working within a few hours, you won't notice a full benefit for several days to weeks. After continuous use, the inhaled nasal steroids will help decrease inflammation and mucus production, resulting in fewer allergy symptoms and reduced nasal congestion. You can take nasal steroids with other allergy medications if needed. But once the nasal steroids take full effect, your doctor may recommend you stop other allergy medications to see if the nasal steroids relieve your symptoms by themselves.

How do you use inhaled nasal steroids for allergy symptoms?

Make sure to read any directions that come with your nasal steroid or ask your doctor to show you how to use it. Depending on the type of nasal steroid, the instructions may be different. For example, with some nasal steroids, you should tilt your head slightly forward. With others, you should tilt your head slightly back.

The main goal is to get the medication to stay in your nose and not run down the back of your throat. To help with that, breathe in gently through your nose as you spray. Also, spray away from your nasal septum (the wall between your nostrils) to avoid irritation.

What are the most common side effects of inhaled nasal steroids for allergy symptoms?

Inhaled nasal steroids usually do not cause side effects. Nasal irritation and headache are the most common side effects. Sometimes, nasal steroids can cause a bloody nose. If there is bleeding when you use an inhaled nasal steroid, ask your doctor what you should do. To help decrease the risk of side effects, your doctor may decrease your nasal steroid dose once your symptoms are controlled.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on March 14, 2013

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