Nasal Sprays Work Best When You Use Them Correctly — Here’s How
Correct positioning is one of the keys to getting the best results.
Another sneeze, another sniffle. You can’t wait to get ahold of a nasal spray so you can find relief for your stuffy nose ASAP.
“While nasal congestion can be treated with an over-the-counter nasal spray, using the spray isn’t always as simple as it seems,” says allergist Mark Aronica, MD. “Correct positioning and technique are the keys to getting the best results.”
What are nasal sprays used for?
The simple explanation of nasal sprays is that they target inflammation in your nasal passages, which reduces swelling and helps clear up stuffiness.
Some nasal sprays (steroid nasal sprays and antihistamine sprays) are specifically designed to treat allergy symptoms and can be used for the long term.
A third type, called decongestant nasal sprays, should only be used for a few days at a time, so they’re best for treating congestion caused by a cold or the flu.
How to use nasal sprays
Nasal sprays are medication — and like any medication, if you take them wrong, you won’t get their full benefits. With nasal sprays, it all comes down to proper usage.
“Technique is very important with nose sprays,” Dr. Aronica says. “Sometimes, patients tell me their spray isn’t working, but when we improve their technique, it really helps.”
Here’s the right way to use your nasal spray:
- Before applying, gently blow your nose. This will clear your nasal passages and clear the way for the medicine.
- Read the product directions. If it directs you to do so, be sure to shake the bottle or squirt out a small amount, which is called “priming” a nasal inhaler.
- Position the bottle opening under one nostril. To use your nasal spray properly, it’s important to make sure to point the spray toward the back of your nose so the medicine makes it into your sinuses. “Steer away from the midline of your nasal cavity when you squirt it in,” Dr. Aronica says.
- Gently squeeze or pump the bottle and, with your mouth closed, inhale slightly and gently to ensure that the product remains inside of your nose. “Usually, the pump action on the spray is enough to drive the spray into the nose and sinus,” Dr. Aronica says. “You can take a gentle sniff, but you don’t want to taste it in the back of your throat.”
Safety tips for using nasal sprays
Dr. Aronica also weighs in on a few common usage errors — things you shouldn’t do when you’re using a nasal spray.
Don’t aim toward your septum
“You never want to direct the spray at the nasal septum, which is the middle portion of your nose,” he says. When you push a spray directly onto your septum, the force can damage the tissue, and you can end up with irritation or a bloody nose.
Don’t tilt your head back
Most products can be applied while you’re in an upright position, so you don’t have to tilt your head back. “You don’t want it dripping down the back of your throat,” Dr. Aronica notes.
Don’t take a big sniff
If you suck the medicine to the back of your throat and swallow it, it doesn’t have the opportunity to do what you need it to do — get into your sinus cavity. A gentle sniff should do the trick.
Don’t blow your nose
It’s tempting to grab a tissue after you’ve used a nasal spray, but try to avoid it. “You want as much of the medicine to stay in the nose and sinus as possible,” Dr. Aronica advises.
Don’t share your nasal spray
To avoid spreading bacteria, keep your spray to yourself. You don’t want anyone else sticking something up their nose that’s just been in yours!
“Keep the bottle clean and only allow one person to use it,” he says. “Remember to wipe down the nasal spray bottle and put the cap back on after each use.”