Nasal sprays are used for delivering medications systemically or locally in the nasal cavity. They are used for treating conditions such as allergic rhinitis and nasal congestion.

A right nasal spray can work wonders for a stuffy nose. Since these are so readily available, people often assume that these are without any side effects. But is it so?

Well, the answer depends. It is dependent on the type of nasal sprays used. While some sprays can be used without any issues, others can cause “nasal spray addiction.”

Nasal spray addiction is not an addiction in its truest sense. Instead, it leads to nasal tissue damage. Overuse of nasal sprays can cause long-term stuffiness and swelling.

While the addiction can be resolved by weaning oneself away from the addictive spray, some people might require surgery for repairing damage caused by overuse.

In the following paragraphs, we look at different nasal sprays and see if it can cause addiction.

Saline Nasal Sprays

One of the safest nasal sprays around is the drug-free saline nasal spray. It is useful for all ages.

Containing sterilized water and some salt, the saline nasal spray is the best bet for stuffiness caused due to allergies or cold.

Saline sprays loosen and thin the mucus allowing for more natural breathing. The saline spray helps in moisturizing the sinuses, dry nasal passages as well as soothes the inflamed mucous membrane.

Most of the saline sprays will specify words “saline” as well as “drug-free” on their product. To be sure, you should check that the only ingredients are water and salt (sodium chloride).

Otrivin is one of the most commonly known saline nasal sprays.

Is saline nasal spray addictive?


The sprays do not have any side effects and can be used by people of all ages. You can get a wide variety of sprays both online and offline.


Antihistamine Nasal Sprays

Antihistamine nasals sprays are used for treating seasonal allergies such as the itchy nose, sneezing, congestion or runny nose.

A prescription medication, antihistamines nasal sprays work by blocking histamines, which is responsible for allergy symptoms.

Antihistamine nasal sprays can be applied directly into the nose allowing treatment of allergy symptoms at its source. They are said to cause less drowsiness compared to pills, but it does still make some people sleepy.

The OTC variant of antihistamine spray contains cromolyn sodium.

Antihistamine nasal spray is safe for everybody above age 2. Daily use for a week or more is required to get the desired benefits. Some common antihistamine nasal spray includes Patanase, Astepro, and Astelin.

Can it cause addiction?


Sprays that contain cromolyn sodium are nonaddictive and can be safely used up to 12 weeks. Those who require it for a longer duration should consult their doctor.

Steroid Nasal Sprays

Steroid nasal sprays are also known as corticosteroid nasal sprays. Corticosteroids are often mistaken for anabolic steroids which are used by bodybuilders for improving their muscle mass.

Steroid nasal sprays help in calming the overactive immune system which can result in inflammation of the nasal membranes.

Applied directly into the nose, these sprays are used for treating nasal allergy symptoms like runny nose and sneezing. It can also treat hay fever.

Corticosteroid nasal sprays can replace the medications taken orally for the treatment of various allergies.

The recommended dose of a steroid nasal spray is either 1 or 2 squirts. The sprays start showing their effect several days after its usage. Regular use of steroid nasal sprays can help in addressing symptoms during allergy season.

Long-term steroid nasal sprays can cause side effects like headaches, nosebleeds, and eye conditions like cataracts. Some nasal sprays which contain fluticasone furoate can result in slower growth in children.

While steroid nasal sprays are available OTC, some might require a doctor's prescription. The active ingredient to look out for is triamcinolone acetonide or fluticasone propionate.

Examples of steroid nasal sprays include Dymista, Nasarel, Nasonex, Veramyst, and Beconase, among others.

Are they addictive?


Corticosteroid nasal sprays are safe for daily use in a majority of people. Children below 6 years and those who need it for more than six months should take it under their physician’s advice.


Decongestant Nasal Sprays

These over-the-counter nasal sprays help in vasoconstriction - temporary shrinking of the nasal blood vessels. Vasoconstriction. provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness, but does not cure allergies or cold.

Available under different brand names like Flonase, Afrin, Mucinex, Sudafed, the main active ingredients are pseudoephedrine and oxymetazoline.

Can decongestant nasal sprays cause addiction?


Overuse of decongestant nasal sprays can result in "nasal spray addiction" in some.

This is not addiction in its strictest sense. It is rebound congestion – a condition where the person might have the urge to use spray more frequently, sometimes several times in a day.

Each use results in the nasal blood vessels constricting, and once the effects wear off, the vessels swell up again.

Regular use of decongestants can result in severe and in some cases permanent tissue swelling and tissue damage resulting in pain and infection.

Rebound congestion symptoms include a feeling of congestion immediately after use, a sense of the drug being ineffective, a strong urge to use more than required and using it for normal breathing.

To avoid rebound congestion, AAAAI, or the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology recommends using decongestants only twice a day for three days.

People using decongestants spray regularly should see a doctor for checking out if they have any excess swelling or nasal tissue damage.

Stoppage of decongestant sprays can help in addressing this issue, although the use of steroid nasal sprays might be indicated in some cases.

The Takeaway

Nasal sprays are a type of medication and should be judiciously used. Overuse of anything is fraught with risk.

If you feel that you are overusing nasal sprays, you should visit your doctor.