Nasal Sprays for Allergies

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

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

Decongestant Sprays

Decongestant sprays shrink swollen blood vessels and tissues in your nose that cause congestion. Oxymetazoline hydrochloride (Afrin, Dristan, Sinex) and phenylephrine hydrochloride (Neo-Synephrine) 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 azelastine (Astelin, Astepro) and olopatadine (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 congestion, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. They also help stop a drippy nose. They're often the first drug recommended for allergies, but it takes about a week before you’ll notice your symptoms getting better.

Examples of steroid nasal sprays available by prescription include beclomethasone (Beconase, Qnasl), ciclesonide (Zetonna), fluticasone furoate (Veramyst), and mometasone (Nasonex). Three medications can be purchased over the counter -- budesonide (Rhinocort Allergy), fluticasone (Flonase Allergy Relief), and triamcinolone (Nasacort Allergy 24HR).

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

Cromolyn Sodium (NasalCrom)

This nasal spray prevents your body from releasing histamines, chemicals that cause 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 sodium 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.

Ipratropium Nasal (Atrovent Nasal)

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 Louise Chang, MD on June 07, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Hay Fever Treatment."

FamilyDoctor.org: "Allergic Rhinitis" and "OTC Relief for Congestion."

Medscape Reference: "Ipratropium" and "Cromolyn sodium, intranasal (OTC)."

RxList.com.

FamilyDoctor.org: "Allergic Rhinitis."

FamilyDoctor.org: "OTC Relief for Congestion."

Medscape Reference: "Ipratropium."

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Hay Fever Treatment."

Medscape Reference: "Cromolyn sodium, intranasal (OTC)."

News release, FDA.

UpToDate.com. “Patient information: Allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) (Beyond the Basics).”

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