Allergies, stuffy nose, sinus pressure may be getting you down but don’t make the mistake of reaching for over-the-counter (OTC) nasal sprays. These drugs do provide immediate relief but with a serious side effect---addiction.
The sprays, when used once or twice, do work miracles by relieving nasal congestion in just minutes by reducing the blood flow to the lining of the nose. The problem is many users fail to heed the warning on the package which explains not to use the nasal sprays or drops for more than three consecutive days.
Overdoing it with OTC sprays or drops that contain any of these active ingredients--- oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, xylometazoline or naphazoline---can have an addicting or rebound effect which causes the walls inside the nose to become swollen and symptoms to become worse. Your nose will be more congested than when you started, and you will want even more spray.
Admittedly, overuse of OTC sprays is not a true addiction (by definition, a compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance known to be physically, psychologically or socially harmful). However, they do lead to compulsive use. Some health-care providers are advocates for making the sprays available by prescription only because of this danger.
A better, but not perfect, choice for relief from nasal congestion is a prescription nasal steroid spray which decreases inflammation and swelling in the nose. Another alternative is a hot pepper spray, called Sinus Buster, which some doctors recommend as a safe way to wean someone off of chemical nasal sprays and relieve sinus symptoms. Another option would be a saline spray that can soothe the nasal membranes. Use any type of spray in combination with your Neti Pot to cleanse the sinus passages.
Other side effects of OTC nasal sprays include nervousness and irritability, increased heart rate and difficulty sleeping because you are revved up. The more you use, the worse all of your symptoms become.
How do you escape the vicious cycle created by the nasal sprays? Best solution is don’t ever start. If you must use them, follow the package warning and stop using them after three to five days.
If you are caught in the nasal spray trap, you can try a withdrawal program, recommended in the book, “The Sinus Cure,” by Dr. Murray Grossan and Debra Bruce. The program involves gradually diluting the amount of nasal spray or drops you are using until you are free from your addiction.
Begin by taking the nasal spray solution and adding an equal amount of saline (either a packaged solution or homemade from ½ teaspoon salt and one cup warm water). Label this new solution bottle “A.” Shake up the new solution to mix and use this diluted spray for one week.
For week 2, add an equal amount of saline and solution from bottle “A” and label this bottle “B.” Use this solution for the second week. On week 3, remove ½ ounce of the diluted solution in bottle “B” and add it to a new bottle called “C,” along with an equal amount of saline. Continue this dilution process on subsequent weeks until you completely wean yourself away from the nasal spray or drops.