By Jane Chitty
Guest writer for Wake Up World
Many will reach for an over-the-counter nasal spray without a second thought, but how safe are they to use? What are the risks? Who shouldn’t use them? Can they become addictive?
Decades ago, people would put up with hay fever at this time of the year or they would use a variety of home remedies. Now, relief from itchy noses, watery eyes, and nasal congestion are just a quick spritz away, with prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical nasal sprays being one of the most common ways to treat nasal congestion caused by allergies or infection.
I have just been reading the package insert for one such nasal spray – Vicks Sinex Soother – and there is a long list of those who should not be using this nasal spray at all. In fact, the one good thing that can be said about it is that you are not likely to notice any effect on your ability to drive or use a machine!
So what are the potential dangers?
Even more congestion!
One drawback of commercial nasal sprays can be even more congestion! It is estimated that 7% of the United States population suffer from a drug-induced condition called rhinitis medicamentosa which is actually caused by using the nasal spray. This condition occurs when a decongestant nasal spray is used repeatedly for more than three to five consecutive days, leading to nasal passage damage and the inability to respond to the decongestant. Very often, rhinitis medicamentosa goes undiagnosed.
Steroids and dependency.
Nasal sprays contain steroids, like cortisone. They constrict the blood vessels inside your nose. It is when you have a cold, flu or allergies that these blood vessels become swollen and dilated, stimulating the nasal membranes to produce large amounts of mucus. When you constrict the blood vessels by using a nasal spray, they shrink and help to dry up the mucus – and it feels good.
The problem arises when your nose becomes too used to the nasal spray’s effect, cancelling it out. You end up relying on the spray more and more. This goes on for so long that you find you cannot function without having a nasal spray at hand for constant use. Although at the start of its use, the nasal spray will be effective for 6 to 8 hours, this time span becomes less and less with use. This is the main reason why the package insert advises you to use it for no longer than 3 days. You may not be addicted but you may certainly become dependent.
Some side effects are that nasal sprays can cause dryness, crusting and bleeding of the nose. Of course, if this occurs, stop immediately. There have been reports of nasal steroids possibly having an effect on behavior. While this is thought to be rare, users have reported hyperactivity, problems sleeping, anxiety and depression.
When should you NOT use a nasal spray?
If you have inflamed skin or mucus membranes of your nostrils / or scabs in your nose.
If you are taking MAO inhibitors – for example for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease or depression – beta blockers or high blood pressure medications.
If you suffer from acute heart disease or cardiac asthma.
If you suffer from narrow angle glaucoma.
If you have had your pituitary gland removed.
If you are allergic to the specific ingredients in the nasal spray.
You should certainly use with caution if you are pregnant or breast feeding, have high blood pressure, heart disease (including angina), diabetes, thyroid problems or an enlarged prostate gland.
What can you use in place of a nasal spray?
Fortunately, there are safer ways including nasal irrigation where you wash out your nose once or twice daily with warm salt water. This is a low risk, low cost method that washes away those irritants and toxins. It might take a bit of time and effort but well worth it. Practise the procedure first before actually starting the washing, and perhaps turn your phone off.
You will need:
- All natural Himalayan salt or sea salt
- Preferably filtered or distilled water
- A Neti pot or bulb syringe
- Towel or wash cloth
Follow these steps:
- The neti pot is specially designed with a spout that fits comfortably in one nostril. Otherwise use a bowl and a bulb syringe (or turkey baster).
- Fill the pot or bowl with lukewarm salt water – the ratio should be 1 teaspoon sea salt to 1 pint (or 2 cups) water.
- Lean over the kitchen or bathroom sink and tilt your head forward so you are looking directly down toward the sink. Insert the spout or syringe into your right nostril. It is important that you breathe through your mouth. Turn your head to the right and let water move into the right nostril and exit the left nostril. Normally, you will feel the water as it passes through your sinuses. If any water drains into your mouth, spit it out and adjust the angle of your head.
- Use a whole cup of water for one nostril, before repeating the same with the second nostril.
- Quickly blow air out of both open nostrils some 15 times over the sink while avoiding the temptation to block off one nostril.
While it may sound complicated, practice makes perfect and you will find it very helpful. You can use up to 4 times a day for those annoying seasonal allergies.
Part of the process for truly combating such allergies is making some lifestyle changes too. These include: installing an air purifier in your home; boosting your immune system; regular exercise; supplementing with omega-3 fat; raising your vitamin D levels; and taking a course of probiotics.
About the author:
Jane Chitty is a content writer for Healing Natural Oils, a producer and retailer of high-quality, all-natural treatments for a variety of conditions (including acne, arthritis, moles, warts, skin tags and many more). After living for many years in in Cape Town, South Africa, Jane has now settled in England although she has spent time in the USA where she has close family living. Jane is interested in comparing natural living and lifestyles in the USA, the UK and South Africa – especially in the areas of health, green living and nutrition. You can find Jane’s regular posts for Healing Natural Oils at amoils.com/health-blog.