For some reason, whenever I hear the words ‘nasal spray technology’ used together in a sentence, I am instantly drawn back to the advertisements for erectile dysfunction that plagued commercial radio in the late 2000s. Now, I don’t want to stigmatise that particular affliction, but it is still something that I would prefer not to give too much airtime to in my head. In reality, nasal sprays are an incredibly useful way of getting medicine into your nasal passages and sinuses. Newer research is coming out that suggests that it might be the most effective method of administering treatments for migraines, osteoporosis, alzheimers, and Parkinson's disease. The future is bright!
Here are a few of the different nasal sprays you might come across (I’m leaving the erectile one out).
- Nasal steroid sprays: These sprays are a bit of a pre-emptive strike against the tyranny of allergies. Anyone who descends into a snotty mess at certain times of the year should be all over this. If you start using these sprays once a day in the weeks beforehand, you can skate through practically untouched. Best of all, your body doesn’t get used to them (called the rebound effect), nor does it become hooked. Good times!
- Antihistamine sprays: These are the firemen who you call when you are experiencing allergic reactions in the here and now. Generally, these are available only with a prescription because they are a fairly powerful medicine.
- Decongestant nasal sprays: This is probably the one you are most familiar with. Perhaps you have used something like Otrivin nasal spray to help you find some relief from the congestion of colds or the flu. They are generally pretty effective if administered correctly because they drop the medicine right where it needs to go, whereas other oral medicines need to be absorbed in your bloodstream so the effect isn’t as immediate. All decongestants, like Otrivin nasal spray are liable to the rebound effect so you need to be careful that you use them sparingly, lest their effective wane over time. There are a few symptoms which are red flags for the rebound effect: You might detect a bitter smell, you might sneeze, feel burning and stinging, or just an extra runny nose. If so, just pull back on the Otrivin nasal spray. If you experience major symptoms (change in heart rate, unusual perspiration, or constant nosebleeds), you should see a doctor.
But strangely enough, there is technique to this. It isn’t quite as simple as point and shoot. I’ve had customers come and tell me that nasal sprays don’t work for them, and almost always, they’re doing it wrong.
Here is the perfect technique.
- You need to blow your nose before using a nasal spray. Otherwise there is a good chance that the medicine will not get to where it needs to go because it is blocked by snot and mucus, or you will simply blow it all out next time you blow your nose. You might as well just shoot the nasal spray into a tissue and cut out the middle man.
- You might need to shake the nasal spray to prime it for action. Alternatively, some will require you to squirt out a small amount before using it in your nose.
- Aim matters. Many people shoot it straight up towards your septum, under the misguided belief that this is the direction of your nasal cavity. This will hit the roof of your nose, and drip out in a matter of minutes. Moreover, you will irritate the tissue up there which is not designed or well versed in having foreign liquids jetting into it. You might even end up with a bloody nose. You actually need to aim it backwards. Consider the way you did a RAT or PCR test, and how much more horizontal that went than you were expecting. Same deal for a nasal spray.
- Once you have pumped the bottle as many times as directed by the label, you need to close your mouth and gently inhale through your nose so that the medicine makes its way to the back of your nose. The spray action will generally get you there, but a gentle breath helps it on its way. If you are beginning to taste it in the back of your throat, you need to ease up slightly with that inhale. You’ve effectively drunk it and it is doing nothing for you. This same phenomenon can be observed if you tilt your head backwards. It drains down your throat and you’re no better off.
- However tempted you may be, don’t blow your nose in the immediate aftermath of spraying your medicine. It needs time to absorb into your bloodstream.
- This isn’t technique, per se, but… don’t share your nasal spray. That is a wonderful way to spread your bacteria to other people and visa versa. You wouldn’t share a handkerchief, and this is about ten times more invasive than those germ cruise ships.
There are some instances that you should not be using nasal sprays. You should consult your doctor if you have diabetes, hyperthyroidism, diabetes or if you are currently on any other medication. You will probably be cleared, but it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health. Alternatively, if you have damaged nasal passages from some kind of blunt trauma, or laceration, the last thing you want to be doing is interfering with that healing process. As frustrating as allergies or congestion might be, they are nothing compared to some kind of infection or permanent damage because scar tissue built up when it should have been healing undisturbed.
So there you have it: a crash course in nasal spray technology. I hope that this places you in good stead to treat the various maladies that you encounter in life. I always have a few bottles kicking around the medicine cabinet for when I wake up at 3AM so blocked up that you could rig a sail to my back and sail me on the open ocean.
Floyd - Senior Pharmacist