The People's Perspective on Medicine

Tenacious Nasal Spray Addiction Can Be Overcome with Steroid Spray

Man uses a nasal spray for treatment

Q. I was addicted to nasal sprays for five years. The ear, nose and throat specialist told me that there was nothing he could do. He said I had to go “cold turkey.”

A year later, my family doctor prescribed Nasonex nasal spray for allergies. This nasal steroid spray cured my dependence on decongestants in a few days.

A. Decongestant nasal sprays (like Afrin or Neo-Synephrine) come with a clear warning not to use them for more than three days. The trouble is, allergies usually last a lot longer so people are tempted to overuse such products.

Rebound nasal congestion can make it very challenging to stop suddenly. People feel so congested because of blood vessel dilation in nasal passages that they often resume use of the spray.

Nasonex nasal spray contains the corticosteroid mometasone. It and similar prescription products (beclomethasone, budesonide, fluticasone and triamcinolone) calm inflammation and can often make it easier to discontinue decongestant sprays.

It is wise to keep in mind that steroid nasal sprays also have side effects, so they should not be used indefinitely. Here are what some of our readers have said:

“I used Flonase for years. I developed cataracts on both eyes and had to have them removed. I am only 61 and the cataracts were both removed when I was still in my fifties. They don’t tell you that Flonase and other steroid nose sprays can contribute to the early development of cataracts but I found that out after it was too late. Also, for me, Flonase stopped working after awhile so it was back to the addictive nose sprays.

“I have tried everything and while some remedies work for some periods of time nothing has worked consistently over the years better than the addictive nose sprays. My congestion is always at night so it’s either use the sprays or I can’t sleep. I have tried decongestants and they clear up my nasal passages but the ingredients keep me awake. Some have suggested Bendadryl but this doesn’t decongest me.

“I wish there was a remedy that would help with my severe nighttime nasal congestion while letting me sleep through the night!” TM

“One other option to relieve congestion without resorting to nasal decongestants (or oral decongestants) is to just irrigate nasal passages (liberally) using a saline solution and a rubber ear syringe (a teaspoon of table salt in a cup of warm water). It can be a messy process and it’s not as fast as using a decongestant, but it is not habit forming, puts no chemicals (other than sodium chloride) into your body and it does work.” Don

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I have used saline spray for at least 25 years. Once in the morning and again at bed time. No problems. Over the past 3 days I have had to use it multiple times through the day and it only helps a little. I know this is dumb but I began using it because I have claustrophobia and I have severe panic attacks when I can’t breath though my nose!! I also have Flonase which helps with seasonal allergies but does not decongest my nose.

I have never been an allergy sufferer. Three weeks ago, I went on a cruise and caught an Upper Respiratory Infection. I was on antibiotics for six days, but when that cleared up, I was left with extremely congested nasal passages. At night I would wake up from sleep panting and I couldn’t understand what was happening. I had never experienced a panic attack. My doctor prescribed Flonase and in three weeks, it has not helped my nasal congestion at all. Two nights ago I had was taken to the hospital because I could not breathe and my chest was tight. When they did EKG, my heart rate was 137. I was in extreme panic mode. I was prescribed Atrovent which does not help congestion either. I need help before I have a heart attack.

This is in reference to nasal spray addition, NOT allergies. I was addicted for years. I was advised to use my little (pinkie) finger to push open the sinuses. I cut the nail very short, broke open a vitamin A capsule and rubbed the oil on the finger first. This allowed the finger to slide easily. It was uncomfortable but it worked. I had to do this several times a day for a few days, but eventually my sinuses stayed open. That was over 30 years ago. It’s not always a good idea to replace one drug with another! Find a non-drug solution if you can.

I agree with riderernest- you have to find out what the actual cause is by elimination. I found out mine is due to a deviated septum (I’ve broke my nose more than once). I didn’t want to have nasal surgery so I kept looking for a natural alternative and I found NASOCLEAR! No rebound effects and best of all you can use it for more than 3 days..

It is better to deal with the cause rather than the symptoms. The nasal cavity has multiple functions, one of which is to alert you to allergens.
Discover the cause by elimination. the food you eat, the air you breathe, the liquid you drink, the animals you love are but a few of the possible causes.
Neti pot is good to clean the nasal passages. but eliminating the cause is the solution. The problem is most people want an instant solution
and the drug companies just love to sell you their products. You are the problem and the solution. Be the solution!

I was addicted to nasonex until a doctor recommended a product call “Ayr,” which I prefer in its saline mist form. I have also used the netti pot with warm saline water. Both of them have helped me with nasal congestion, getting me through the night.

Use OCEAN nasal spray at bed time & morning.

There are some easy to use nasal irrigators, especially those made by NeilMed. Easier than Neti pots.
Also, there are a number of herbal sinus supplements and some saline “Clear Wash” nasal sprays.
Thirdly, congestion may be due to blocked lymph system. Try Immune Defense

Getting tested and treated for allergies solved my sinus problems. I haven’t had a sinus infection or had clogged sinuses since then-’85.

Great point!

If you use an “addicting” spray, use it only in 1 nostril at a time; that way you can use it for 6 days without creating rebound congestion.

I found that when using a neti pot for nasal irrigation, I needed to use both salt and baking soda or the water would be irritating to my nose. Water that is a bit warm was more comfortable, too.
The packets sold for that purpose might work. They can be a bit expensive.
Neti pots reduce spillage when irrigating.

Have acupuncture of or milk with 1/4 tsp of turmeric before going to bed. That’s very helpful for congestion.

Many years ago, my doctor helped me get of nasal drops. He suggested that I mix a small amount of distilled water in the bottle of drops. As the days went by, I added more and more water, until finally I was using only water and the addiction was gone. That was a very happy day!
I’ve never used any type of drop or spray since then, except a saline solution, when there is a serious problem. I never want to risk the chance of addiction again.

It is better to treat the cause than the symptoms. The nasal sinuses are giving you a message. Something you are eating, drinking or inhaling is causing an allergic response. Record what you eat, drink and breathe then begin an elimination process recording the results. Ultimately you will discover the CAUSE (Causes).

What are the mesh things called and where do you find them?

This works! Open your nostrils up with your fingers. If opening one of them lets more air pass, then please try those wonderful soft mesh things that you push into your nostrils. It holds your nostril open so air can pass. It is ‘heaven sent’ and feels like I am on oxygen. No side effects except they get temporarily lost in the bed sometimes. I swear by them.

Neti pots are terrific! Just be sure to use purified water, not tap water.

Capsaicin (hot pepper) spray works wonders. Is not addictive and no side effects that I know of. Just have to endure the first 30 secs of crazy burning sensation upon using it. My kids love to watch my silly reaction when I first spray it!

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