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Nasal Sprays for Cold Relief

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Nasal sprays, also called nose sprays, are commonly used to treat colds. Nasal congestion or blockage is one of the most common symptoms of colds and allergies. Nasal sprays can work quickly to ease congestion and remedy signs of a cold.

How Do Nasal Sprays Work?

Nasal sprays may help treat nasal allergy and cold symptoms. Sprays that are used to treat these cold symptoms are available in three forms:

  • Decongestant nasal sprays. These nasal sprays are available over-the-counter and by prescription. They help to clear nasal passages by causing blood vessels in the lining of the nose to narrow, shrinking swollen tissue in the nose and sinuses. These nasal sprays should not be used for more than three days, depending on the medication, in order to prevent worsening of cold symptoms. When cold symptoms do worsen after using nasal sprays, it's called a "rebound effect."
  • Salt-water solutions. These saline nasal sprays are available over-the-counter to relieve mild congestion, loosen mucus, and prevent crusting. They contain no medication and can be used as frequently as needed without causing additional problems.
  • Steroid nasal sprays. These steroid nasal sprays are available both over-the-counter and by prescription. They are approved for relief of allergy symptoms, but are sometimes used to help with the congestion of a sinus infection.

How Do You Use Nasal Sprays?

Here are some general steps to follow when you use a nasal spray:

  • Clear your nasal passageway by blowing your nose.
  • Take the cap off the bottle and follow directions for shaking or priming the bottle if necessary.
  • Before you spray the medication into your nose, block one nostril by pressing a finger against it lightly.
  • Put your thumb at the bottom of the pump bottle. The hole at the top of the bottle should be underneath your open nostril.
  • Squeeze the pump and breathe in gently. Then switch to the other nostril and repeat the process.
  • In order to keep the medication in your nose, don't blow your nose right away, and try not to sneeze.

Some sprays may have different instructions, so it's important that you follow the directions from your health care provider or from the drug label. Do not use a nasal spray more often or for longer than is recommended by your health care provider or the manufacturer.

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