Q. I need help with my nasal spray addiction. I’ve been addicted to Dristan for more than 15 years. It costs me $18 every two weeks for three bottles. I keep one with me everywhere I go: to the movies, in the car, out to eat, even at my bedside.
I know the instructions say to use it every 12 hours, but if I don’t use it every two to four hours I get congested and can’t breathe. Then, I become a mean and nasty person, according to my wife! If I don’t use it at night, I absolutely cannot sleep.
I’m 57 and wondering if this abuse has anything to do with my high blood pressure or prostate problems. Do you have any suggestions for getting off this stuff?
A. It is possible that the oxymetazoline in your nasal spray could affect your blood pressure or your enlarged prostate, especially at the extreme doses you are using. You will need help from an ear, nose and throat specialist to gradually wean yourself since you are now experiencing drug-induced rebound congestion.
Some people start by adding a tiny bit of saline to the nose spray. Use that for just one nostril. Continue increasing the amount of saline gradually. When one nostril is clear, repeat the procedure in the other nostril. Your doctor may prescribe a steroid nose spray to help you through this difficult withdrawal period.
Another reader suggested this approach for clearing blocked nasal passages:
“I’m one who suffered for years with sinus and hayfever problems so great you would not believe it. A doctor who operated on my sinus suggested I start flushing my nose with a saline solution. (One heaping teaspoon per quart: the water should be boiled for three minutes and cooled before use.)
“This has worked wonders for me. I used to use it every day, but now I use it only about two to three times per week unless I have been working in a very dusty atmosphere, in which case I flush immediately after exposure.”