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Steroid nasal sprays

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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Steroids here refer to corticosteroids, a type of hormone in the body that reduces inflammation. These nasal sprays are used for the relief of symptoms of hay fever and other airborne allergies such as animal and dust allergies. They help with sneezing, congestion, an itchy or runny nose, sinus discomfort, and red, itchy, or watery eyes. The majority of these easy to use nasal sprays are available over the counter, with some slightly stronger nasal sprays only available on prescription.

How do they work?

These steroids are a man-made version of hormones called corticosteroids, which are commonly found in the body. This hormone controls part of our body’s inflammation levels. Steroid nasal sprays reduce the inflammation in the nasal passages, the root cause of hay fever and allergy airborne symptoms.

The common nasal sprays that include a steroid component include:

  • Beconase
  • Flonase
  • Nasacort
  • Nasalide
  • Nasonex
  • Omnaris
  • Rhinocort
  • Tri-Nasal
  • Veramyst
  • Zetonna

Some of these are available over-the-counter and some are prescription only.

How do I use the medication?

First give the bottle a shake, remove the cap and gently move it to your nose. If this is the first time using the spray, ensure it has been activated by spraying into the air until it produces a mist. Hold the nasal spray to ensure the nozzle is ready to be sprayed and targeted toward the nasal cavity. Close one nostril with a finger and place the nozzle in the other nostril. Tilt your head slightly back, keeping the bottle upright, and press down on the pump, releasing the spray while slowly breathing in through the nose. Then breathe out through the mouth.

For dosage and frequency information, check the packaging of the medication you have chosen. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you use a steroid nasal spray for more than 2 weeks or see no improvement in symptoms after 7 days.

Should anyone not use them?

Most steroid nasal sprays are not suitable without a prescription for anyone under the age of 18, therefore speak to your doctor if you are under the age of 18 and think you may need this treatment. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should also speak to your doctor or pharmacist before starting the treatment to see if it is appropriate for you. These nasal sprays can affect blood pressure, so avoid if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Do not use if you are allergic or have had a reaction to any steroids in the past. Also speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you take any regular medication, before starting to use a steroid nasal spray.

Are there any side effects?

Using a nasal spray can increase the risk of a nosebleed and can affect your blood pressure. They can also cause irritation, soreness, and drying of the nose. Seek urgent medical advice if you develop any problems with your eyes such as blurring, clouding, or loss of vision.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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