Nasal sprays for asthma

Nasal sprays can be used in combination with other asthma medications to reduce inflammation in the lungs and help provide asthma relief. Although the delivery methods can vary, most nasal sprays work by instilling a fine mist into the nostril by way of a hand-operated pump mechanism. Nasal sprays deposit allergy medication right where you need it, directly on the lining of your nasal passages. This gives you maximum benefit with minimal side effects because you’re not medicating your entire body just to clear up your nose. There are several types of nasal sprays available to treat different sets of symptoms.

Nasal sprays come in a variety of medicated and natural forms and the main ones are:

Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays

These types of nasal spray are developed to reduce tissue inflammation and histamine product in nasal passages which in turn will relieve nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, sinus pain and headaches. If they are used too often they can cause nose bleeds, nasal burning and overall irritation in the nasal cavities. They do start working quickly and need to be used on a regular basis to be effective, but you may not feel the full effects for several weeks. They are non-sedating (they won’t make you sleepy). Nasal corticosteroid sprays come in two types, traditional water based solutions and waterless “dry” aerosols. You can only obtain a corticosteroid nasal spray via a prescription so you will need to speak with your doctor.

Topical Decongestant Nasal Sprays

These are completely different from nasal corticosteroid sprays. These can be purchased over the counter and act quickly to shrink swollen membranes, but they can also irritate the inner lining of the nose and some studies show they can be addictive. They should never be used for more than 1-3 days because of the potential for addictive side effects. You can talk with your doctor for more information.

Antihistamine Nasal Sprays

Antihistamine sprays are only available on prescription and prevent the histamine your body produces from causing the allergic symptoms. They usually cause less drowsiness than antihistamine tablets but they still may make some people sleepy. They start to work within 30 minutes of using them but since they can react with other drugs it is important to speak with your doctor to find out if any drugs or conditions you may be taking would preclude you from using an antihistamine nasal spray.

Natural Nasal Sprays

These do not contain medicine, they are salt water solutions that have a soothing effect when sprayed into the nose and can help break up mucus in your nasal passages. Think of a saline spray as a moisturiser for your nose. These are usually purchased over the counter. They can also relieve nasal congestion and remove airborne irritants like pollen and dust which will provide sinus relief.

It is important that any of the above nasal sprays are not seen as a substitute to asthma medication and that they should be used in conjunction with your normal asthma treatments to help relieve asthma symptoms. Using a nasal spray should be discussed with your medical professional before use.

Sources used in writing this article are available on request

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Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 5 April 2018
Next review: 5 April 2021