Natural Allergy Relief: Saline Nasal Sprays

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on June 19, 2024
5 min read

Saline nasal spray is a product containing a mixture of salt and water that you spray into your nose. (Saline means “containing salt.") You can use saline nasal spray to treat congestion and other symptoms caused by allergies. You can also use saline nasal spray to treat other conditions, such as nasal dryness and nosebleeds.

Saline nasal spray is available over the counter in a drug store or online. You can also make your own saline nasal solution at home and apply it to your nasal passages with a spray bottle.

If your nasal passages are dry, a good blast of saline nasal spray can make them feel more moist. When you’re congested, saline nasal spray clears out mucus and crusts in your nasal passages that are causing you to feel stuffed up. Using saline nasal spray or irrigation also helps cleanse your nasal passages, washing away pollen and other things that cause allergy symptoms. It may also help protect you from some types of infections.

You can buy an over-the-counter saline solution or make one at home.

Most over-the-counter saline nasal sprays are isotonic, which means the solution has the same saline concentration as found in your body. Hypertonic versions have a higher concentration of salt than what’s in your body. Both types can help clear mucus, though some studies show that hypertonic saline may do a better job of improving nasal symptoms. But they may also cause mild irritation and other side effects.

Saline nasal spray for adults

Some saline nasal spray options for adults include:

  • Arm & Hammer Simply Saline Nasal Mist
  • Ayr Saline Nasal Mist
  • Xlear Nasal Spray
  • Vicks Sinex Saline Nasal Spray

Saline nasal spray for children

If your child needs saline nasal spray, some choices include:

  • Boogie Mist Baby Saline Nasal Spray
  • Burt's Bees Kids Gentle Saline Spray and Drops
  • NeilMed Pediamist Pediatric Saline 
  • Vicks Sinex Children's Saline Nasal Spray

Over-the-counter saline sprays and rinses can help remove pollen from the nasal lining. People often use them at the end of the day. You can also use these sprays to add moisture if your nose feels dry from winter weather.

If you use a nasal steroid spray to treat your allergies, doctors suggest you first use a saline spray to cleanse the nose and rid it of thick mucus and debris. Thick mucus can keep the steroid from working as well as possible.

Making your own saline solution is easy. Many people use this to do a saline sinus rinse. You can buy a small nasal spray bottle to store your saline solution.

To make the solution, mix 3 teaspoons of non-iodized salt (kosher salt with no additives is best) and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Store this mixture in a small clean jar. When you are ready to use it, mix a teaspoon of the mixture into 8 ounces of distilled, sterile, or previously boiled and cooled water.

Store your saline solution at room temperature and mix it before you use it. If the solution stings, use less salt next time.

Making sure you use saline nasal spray the right way can make it more effective:

  • Gently blow your nose. That will help clear out snot and debris, which will help the saline nasal spray work better.
  • Wash your hands well.
  • Shake the bottle and take off the cap.
  • Tilt your head back just a little bit and keep your mouth closed.
  • Plug one nostril by pressing gently on the side of your nose.
  • Place the tip of the bottle in one nostril. Aim it toward the back of your nose.
  • Squeeze or pump the bottle while gently inhaling. Don’t inhale deeply or the solution may end up in your throat instead of your nasal passages.
  • Repeat with the other nostril.
  • Avoid blowing your nose right away.

Saline nasal spray is a safe treatment and most people don’t have side effects. However, there’s a chance that you may develop mild, but bothersome, problems from this treatment, which can include:

  • A stinging or burning sensation
  • Irritation of the nasal passages
  • Itching

Most people can safely use saline nasal sprays, but preservatives used in certain brands can cause allergic reactions in some people. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your doctor if it’s okay to use saline nasal spray.

If you have nasal symptoms such as congestion or dryness, using saline nasal spray may help ease them. There are many brands of saline nasal spray, for both adults and children. You can make your own saline nasal solution, but be sure to follow instructions from a reliable source.

Is it OK to use saline nasal spray daily?

You can use saline nasal spray as often as you need it. For small children (under age 4), ask a doctor whether daily use of saline nasal spray is okay.

Is a saline nasal rinse good for you?

A saline nasal rinse (also called saline nasal irrigation) can help clear out mucus and debris from your nasal passages, which may help you breathe easier when you have an allergy or cold.

What is the difference between saline spray and nasal rinse?

Saline sprays deliver a mix of salt and water into your nasal passages in the form of a mist. A saline nasal rinse uses greater amounts of the solution and delivers it in the form of a fluid.