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Beating Nose Spray Addiction with an OTC Product

Decongestant nose spray addiction can be insidious, but there are strategies to overcome it. OTC steroid nose sprays that are now available can help.

Nose spray addiction can keep people using a decongestant spray for months or even years, rather than the three days specified on most OTC labels. The trouble is that allergies (and even many colds) last much longer than just a few days. But using a decongestant nasal spray for a week or ten days can result in rebound congestion when the spray is discontinued. This is a very common problem. One reader found a solution.

Q. You have often written about nasal spray addiction. The solution is simple, as I discovered by accident.

After using Afrin daily for years and trying unsuccessfully to stop, I bought a bottle of Nasacort 24HR (OTC). I stopped the Afrin and used two squirts of Nasacort in each nostril for 20 days.

I noticed an improvement after a couple of days, but kept using it until my nose opened.

Then I stopped the Nasacort with no trouble. Nose spray addiction cured!

Overcoming Nose Spray Addiction


A. The official term for nose spray addiction is rhinitis medicamentosa. We certainly have written about this problem before. It is not at all unusual.

A corticosteroid spray like Nasacort Allergy 24HR (triamcinolone) or Flonase (fluticasone) can reduce inflammation and swelling to ease withdrawal from decongestants (Treatments in Respiratory Medicine, Feb., 2005).

Side Effects of Steroid Nasal Sprays

Keep in mind that even over-the-counter corticosteroid nose sprays can have side effects, so don’t use them for any longer than necessary.

Side Effects of Nasal Steroids

Their side effects include

  • headache
  • nosebleeds
  • nasal irritation
  • cough
  • stomachache
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • yeast overgrowth in the nasal passages or mouth
  • perforated septum

The septal perforation is more likely with prolonged use, which can also lead to other serious complications such as glaucoma, cataracts or growth suppression in children.

Some readers report that their senses of smell or taste are changed or destroyed after using such a spray, occasionally for only a short time.


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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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