Nasal Spray Side Effects, Actions and How to Use a Nasal Spray

What is a nasal spray?

Nasal sprays are medications that are available for application through the nasal cavity. Most nasal sprays are available as metered-dose nasal sprays meaning that each spray delivers a measured quantity of the solution into the nasal cavity. By creating a fine mist (aerosol), the active ingredients can exert its effect on the nasal mucosa, travel further down the respiratory tract or absorb into the blood stream to take action elsewhere in the body.

Nasal sprays are available in two forms – pressurized canisters and the pump bottles. Nasal sprays can be of use in local disease of the nose (like corticosteroid nasal spray in allergic rhinitis) or for systemic diseases (like desmopressin nasal spray for diabetes insipidus).

Advantages of Nasal Sprays

  • Nasal sprays have minimal side effects compared to oral formulations (tablets/capsules) of the same drug.
  • Nasal sprays also have relatively quicker onset of action.
  • Nasal sprays are more convenient and easier to administer.

Uses of Nasal Sprays

Nasal sprays were primarily developed to treat diseases of the nose, but currently it is also used to treat many systemic diseases. Rhinitis and nasal congestion of various causes are better treated with help of nasal sprays. Systemic diseases currently treated with nasal sprays include diabetes insipidus, osteoporosis, central precocious puberty and smoking cessation with nicotine replacement therapy. Several other systemic indications like epilepsy, pain, diabetes mellitus and so on are under evaluation.

Side Effects of Nasal Sprays

The various intranasal sprays have some adverse effects in common. These include a bad taste in the mouth (often due to bitter active ingredients), headaches, bleeding from the nose (epistaxis), cough and upper respiratory tract infections. Prolonged use of nasal decongestants can cause rhinitis medicamentosa, and abnormalities in the sense of smell due to destruction of the cells involved in olfaction.

Administration of Nasal Sprays

  • The nose is cleared of any mucus with a gentle blow before the application of the nasal spray.
  • The pressurized canister (or pump bottle) is shaken well before using it. If pump bottles are used, it requires 1 to 2 squirts into air to make sure that the spray is misty enough to be applied as nasal spray.
  • The spray container is held close to the nose and the other side of the nostril, which is not used for taking the spray, is closed with a finger.
  • The container is then pressed while breathing in slowly through the nose.
  • The process is then repeated in the opposite nostril.

Clearing or blowing the nose should be avoided for a short while after administration of the spray.

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