Q. I have suffered with severe, chronic nasal congestion and sinus headaches for decades. Periodically I get addicted to over the counter nasal sprays and have a terrible time weaning myself off. Sleeping with a stuffy nose is the pits.
What can you recommend besides antihistamines, which leave me groggy?
A. Many people have reported dependence upon vasoconstrictors found in nasal sprays like Afrin and NeoSynephrine. A safe alternative involves saline (salt water) nasal sprays. One reader offered the following:
“I have found that the nasal saline spray my ear nose and throat doctor recommended really helps me. The brand name is Ocean. If someone has head pain due to nasal congestion or sinuses, I definitely recommend giving this non-habit-forming remedy a try.”
This is a terrible time of year for people with nasal congestion. Allergies have been especially bad this spring, probably because of the mild winter. There are so many allergens in the air it is hard to know how to cope.
We have a thorough chapter in our book Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy about dealing with allergies. First, you will want to think about improving your home environment! A really good HEPA-type air filter to capture pollen and other sensitizing particles can be a worthwhile long-time investment. You will find our 4 star choice is Aprilaire and why on page 52. Which vacuum cleaners are best and which could make your life miserable? Hint: think Gutersloh, Germany.
Non-drug approaches for allergy treatment include nose cleaning with a neti pot. Be sure to boil your water, though before turning into the right saline solution. We do NOT want anyone forcing germs, viruses or fungi into the upper reaches of the nose or sinuses! Consider vitamin C, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), butterbur, and cromolyn (derived from the fruit of bishop’s weed). Details on pages 54-59. Learn about the pros and cons of corticosteroid nasal sprays such as Beconase AQ, Rhinocort, Nasarel, Flonase, Nasonex and Nasacort AQ on pages 62-63.
You can survive the allergy season if you approach the congestion with a full court press that involves modifying your environment and using a variety of treatments thoughtfully! We hope Best Choices can help.