The Lowdown

The prevalence of allergies has been on the rise in the United States over the past few decades, according to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, but the good news is that the latest crop of nasal inhalers are helping patients to fight back against their most uncomfortable symptoms.
Some nasal inhalers are available over-the-counter, while others are by prescription only. Some of the most popular types of nasal inhalers your doctor may recommend to treat your condition include:

  • Nasal decongestants, which offer short-term relief of congestion and nasal symptoms. These typically last from 4 to 12 hours, depending on the type. While these can be effective initially, with repeated use, they can have a “rebound” effect, which means that when the effect wears off, your symptoms can actually get worse instead of better. 

  • Nasal antihistamines, which block the histamine chemical that occurs in your body to prevent the allergy symptoms it causes.  The benefit of this medication usually starts quickly and can last for about 12 hours. Taking an antihistamine in nasal form can avoid the drowsiness that occurs with some of the older types of oral antihistamines on the market today.

  • Steroid nasal sprays, which work by reducing the inflammation that allergies cause in your nose, eliminating the range of associated symptoms. By inhaling the steroid rather than ingesting it, the side effects of the steroid on your body can be minimized or even eliminated. (However, there are still some slight risks that come with using nasal sprays over the long-term, including a perforated nasal septum.)

You may need to use steroids repeatedly before they begin to work, so if your symptoms are severe and you need interim relief, your doctor may recommend you use a fast-acting inhaler and steroid at the same time.

How Nasal Inhalers Work

Most nasal inhalers work by providing a fine mist of the medication right into the nasal passages where most of your symptoms are centered. This can happen either through an aqueous spray, which has a nozzle fixed right to the top of the medication bottle, or a metered dose inhaler, which has the nozzle attached to the side of a pressurized canister.

Get the Best Results

Using a nasal inhaler can be very easy and also very effective, according to the experts, as long as you follow a few easy steps. Here are some tips on how to use your nasal inhaler for the best results:

  • Blow your nose first to clear it.
  • Insert the inhaler nozzle into one nostril, while blocking the other nostril by placing a finger against the side.
  • Position the inhaler so that the medication will be delivered at a 45 degree angle.
  • Use your right hand to treat your left nostril, then reverse, using your left hand for your right nozzle.
  • When using an aqueous inhaler, you will need to stick the nozzle all of the way into your nostril before you spray it. After using, wait for a few seconds then pinch your nose and lean forward for a minute to let the medication “take.”

Educate Yourself

Before taking nasal inhalers, you may want to take your doctor or pharmacist about potential side effects or medication interactions that could occur with the type you are considering. Also, never take more than one type of nasal inhaler at a time without first making sure it is a safe combination. By taking the time to educate yourself first, you will be more likely to get the best results to prevent and treat your bothersome symptoms.