So you have allergies – and the sneezing, itching, runny nose and nasal congestion that come with them. What can you do to relieve symptoms and avoid that groggy medication haze? Nasal corticosteroids might help.
Corticosteroids are a class of medication developed to reduce tissue inflammation (swelling). Inhaled
corticosteroids are used by many people with asthma to reduce airway inflammation, the underlying cause of asthma. Nasal corticosteroid sprays perform a similar function in your nose. These sprays deposit allergy medication right where you need it – directly on the lining of your nasal passages. This gives you maximum benefits of the medication – relieving and preventing nasal congestion – with minimal side effects because you’re not medicating your entire body just to clear up your nose.
Nasal corticosteroids are nonsedating – they won’t make you sleepy – and help eliminate the sneezing and runny nose that are part of the inflammatory reaction.
Aim the spray toward the outer wall of the inside of your nose. Pointing it toward your nasal septum (center of the nose) could lead to nose bleeds or irritation.
Nasal corticosteroids start working quickly, but you may not feel the full effects of the medication for several weeks. Doctors generally recommend that you start taking these medications a few weeks before your allergy season starts or regularly if you have year-round symptoms. Before you start using nasal corticosteroids, be sure your nasal passages are open enough to let the medicine get inside. If you are severely congested, you may need to use a nasal wash or take a decongestant for a few days first to clear out your nose before you spray.
Can you get the same relief from nasal sprays that are already available over-the-counter? Nonprescription decongestant nasal sprays and drops can actually do more harm than good in the long run, according to William Berger, MD, MBA. “After 4 or 5 days, they lose their effectiveness and have to be used more often to get the same effect.” This is often called rebound congestion.
Cromolyn sodium, an anti-inflammatory nasal spray (not a decongestant) that’s available over-the-counter under the brand name Nasalcrom®, may help control your nasal allergy symptoms. Talk to your doctor about whether this is a good choice for you.
Like many medications, nasal corticosteroids can have unwanted side effects. For long-term control of nasal allergies, visit an allergist to find out exactly what you’re allergic to and steps you can take to reduce your exposure to allergens. According to Dr. Berger, “Just like any other chronic illness, allergic diseases need to be properly diagnosed and treated.”
|Nasal Corticosteroid Sprays|
|Active Ingredient||Brand Name(s)||Approved Use|
|beclomethasone||Beconase AQ®||Adults; children 6 years and older|
|budesonide||Rhinocort Aqua®||Adults; children 6 years and older|
|ciclesonide||Omnaris™||Adults; children 12 years and older|
|flunisolide||Nasarel®||Adults; children 6 years and older|
|fluticasone||Flonase®||Adults; children 4 years and older|
|fluticasone||Veramyst®||Adults; children 2 years and older|
|mometasone||Nasonex®||Adults; children 2 years and older|
|triamcinolone||Nasacort® AQ, Nasacort® HFA||Adults; children 2 years and older|
|First published: Allergy & Asthma Today, Spring 2007
Reviewed: March 2009, Laurie Ross