Nasal Spray For Allergies: Types, Side Effects And Effectiveness (2024)

Allergies are a common ailment that cause many undesirable symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes—according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, over 50 million people suffer from allergies throughout the U.S. each year[1]Allergy Facts and Figures. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Accessed 4/4/2022. . Many over-the-counter medications can help relieve the symptoms of allergies, though, including oral pills and liquids, eye drops and nasal sprays.

Nasal sprays in particular are an effective option for people who haven’t found relief from oral allergy medicine or don’t like taking medication by mouth. Nasal sprays are available over-the-counter (OTC) or by prescription. Each type works differently and has its own set of side effects.

Read on for a better understanding of nasal sprays for allergies, including the types available and how they work to relieve your symptoms.

FEATURED PARTNER OFFER Nasal Spray For Allergies: Types, Side Effects And Effectiveness (1)

Partner Offers feature brands who paid Forbes Health to appear at the top of our list. While this may influence where their products or services appear on our site, it in no way affects our ratings, which are based on thorough research, solid methodologies and expert advice. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services

Sesame Care Allergist

Nasal Spray For Allergies: Types, Side Effects And Effectiveness (2)
  • Get relief for your seasonal allergies with quality doctors and providers at affordable prices
  • Face-to-face video conversation with provider
  • Prescription if recommended with local pickup or delivery
  • Good for urgent or routine care


What Are Nasal Sprays for Allergies?

Nasal sprays for allergies are a type of medication sprayed into the nose to help relieve nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy nose and sneezing due to allergies. Some are available at your local pharmacy without a prescription, while others are available with a valid prescription from your doctor.

“There are different groups of nasal sprays with different effects and medications within them to target specific symptoms,” says Shawn Nasseri, M.D., a board-certified ear, nose and throat specialist in Beverly Hills, California. “Nasal sprays are frequently effective at reducing sneezing, stuffiness and postnasal drip like oral medications, and the dose is much smaller since it’s working where it needs to be—your nose.”

How Do Nasal Sprays for Allergies Work?

Nasal allergies are caused by a reaction to airborne particles such as pollen, dust or pet dander. When these particles enter the nose, they trigger the release of histamines and other chemicals that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Allergy nasal sprays work by delivering a small amount of medication directly to the lining of the nose. This helps reduce inflammation and relieves symptoms such as sneezing, itching and runny nose. They’re typically used daily and can provide relief for people with mild-to-moderate allergies.

When it comes to effectiveness, nasal sprays are some of the best, although different types might be better than others. According to a 2017 study in Integrated Pharmacy Research and Practice, intranasal corticosteroids were the most effective for treating allergy-related congestion, sneezing, runny nose and nasal itching—followed by intranasal antihistamines and then oral antihistamines[2]Brudgeman M. Overcoming Barriers to Intranasal Corticosteroid Use in Patients With Uncontrolled Allergic Rhinitis. Integrated Pharmacy Research and Practice. 2017. .

For people with more severe allergies, other medications may be necessary. However, most nasal sprays for allergies are safe and effective. Sometimes, they’re used in combination with oral medications to provide maximum relief.

Types of Nasal Sprays for Allergies

There are several types of allergy nasal sprays including steroids, antihistamines, decongestants and mast cell inhibitors, along with others.

Steroid Sprays

Steroid nasal sprays are one of the most common types of nasal sprays for allergies. They work by reducing inflammation in the nose and sinuses. This helps relieve symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, itchy nose and sneezing.

Steroid nasal sprays are available over-the-counter or by prescription. They are typically used daily and can provide relief for people with mild-to-moderate allergies.

OTC steroid nasal sprays include:

  • Nasacort AQ (triamcinolone acetonide)
  • Flonase (fluticasone propionate)

Prescription steroid nasal sprays include:

  • QNasl (beclomethasone dipropionate)
  • Rhinocort (budesonide)
  • Omnaris or Zetonna (ciclesonide)

Antihistamine Sprays

Another common type of nasal spray for allergies is an antihistamine. Antihistamines work by blocking the effects of histamines, which are chemicals that cause the symptoms of allergies. While antihistamines are also available in oral form, nasal sprays are a great option for people who have trouble swallowing pills.

Antihistamine nasal sprays are available over-the-counter or by prescription. They can provide relief from symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, itchy nose and sneezing.

OTC antihistamine sprays include:

  • Astepro OTC (azelastine)

Prescription antihistamine sprays include:

  • Astelin (azelastine)
  • Patanase (olopatadine)

Decongestant Sprays

Decongestants provide short-term relief from nasal congestion. They work by narrowing the blood vessels in the nose, which help relieve inflammation and allow air to flow more freely through the nose.

While great for temporary relief, decongestants shouldn’t be used for more than a few days at a time. If used longer, they could cause rebound congestion, a return or worsening of symptoms that results from overuse.

Decongestant nasal sprays are available over-the-counter. They are typically used when needed and provide relief from symptoms such as congestion, runny nose and sneezing, and should only be used for a short time because of their potential side effects (such as developing a tolerance).

OTC decongestant sprays include:

  • Afrin, Sinex (oxymetazoline hydrochloride)
  • Neo-Synephrine (phenylephrine hydrochloride)

Anticholinergic Sprays

Anticholinergic nasal sprays work by blocking the action of a chemical called acetylcholine. This helps reduce inflammation and dry up mucus, relieving a runny nose.

Currently, there’s only one FDA-approved anticholinergic nasal spray, which is available by prescription only. Due to their ability to dry up excess mucus, they work best for a runny nose associated with allergies.

Prescription anticholinergic sprays include:

  • Atrovent (ipratropium bromide)

Mast Cell Inhibitor Sprays

Mast cells are a type of immune cell that releases histamines when they come into contact with allergens. By blocking the action of mast cells, mast cell inhibitors help prevent the release of histamines and provide relief from allergy symptoms.

Currently, there’s only one available mast cell inhibitor nasal spray for allergies, which is available without a prescription.

OTC mast cell inhibitor nasal sprays include:

  • NasalCrom (Cromolyn nasal)

Combination Sprays

There are a few combination nasal sprays that contain a mixture of allergy medications such as steroids, antihistamines or mast cell inhibitors. These sprays provide maximum effectiveness by targeting multiple symptoms.

Combination nasal sprays are available by prescription. They can provide relief from symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, itchy nose and sneezing.

Prescription combination nasal sprays include:

  • Dymista (azelastine and fluticasone)
  • Ryaltris (olopatadine and mometasone furoate)

Saline Sprays

Saline nasal sprays are made up of salt water (saline). They help loosen mucus and clear allergens from the sinus cavity. They are available over-the-counter and can be used for long-term relief from nasal dryness and inflammation. They’re also commonly available in gel form.

People of all ages can use saline nasal sprays, and they are a great option for pregnant people or those who are breastfeeding, says Dr. Nasseri. “A sterile saline spray is a good option to use while pregnant or breastfeeding when it is formulated with only all-natural ingredients such as purified water, sodium chloride (salt) and sodium bicarbonate (for pH balance),” he adds.

According to Dr. Nasseri, it’s important to “check the ingredient labels on any products before use, as some will include preservatives or harsh chemicals. Especially in pregnancy, most mothers wish to minimize chemicals and pharmaceuticals.”

OTC saline nasal sprays include:

  • Simply Saline Nasal Mist
  • BEE&YOU Propolis Nasal Spray (saline and Anatolian propolis extract)
  • Euka Infused Cold & Allergy Saline Spray

Expert Allergists At Your Fingertips

Sesame Care expert allergists are just a click away, providing top-notch care from the comfort of your home. No more waiting rooms or long commutes!

Risks and Side Effects of Nasal Sprays for Allergies

Nasal sprays are a popular treatment for allergies, but they can also have some risks and side effects.

Saline sprays are safe with minimal downsides, according to Dr. Nasseri. “For everyday use, saline nasal sprays are a great option as they are drug-free,” he says. “They can help to moisten the nose, loosen mucus, [and] some can displace pathogens or wash them away, and most help the nose drain more easily.”

Here, Dr. Nasseri outlines risks and side effects of common nasal sprays for allergy relief:

Steroid nasal sprays can cause:

  • Nosebleeds, especially when the nose is dry, which can be prevented by pre-moistening the nose with a saline spray or ointment
  • Headaches
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Infections (rare)

Antihistamine nasal sprays can cause:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Nasal discomfort
  • Red eyes

Decongestants can cause:

  • An increase in blood pressure
  • An increase in eye pressure (in those at risk for glaucoma)
  • Burning or stinging irritation
  • Dryness in the nose
  • Rebound congestion, a condition in which symptoms get worse after the use of a decongestant for more than three days

Who Should Use Nasal Sprays for Allergies?

Nasal sprays are generally safe and effective for most people. However, some people shouldn’t use them. Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or glaucoma.

You should also talk to your doctor before using allergy nasal sprays if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Some medications used to relieve allergy symptoms, such as phenylephrine, are category C drugs according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This means they may not be safe for pregnant people or those who are breastfeeding. A traditional saline spray is a safe option for daily relief.

“If you suffer from congestion, a runny nose or sneezing, I recommend using a nasal spray to help fight allergy symptoms,” concludes Dr. Nasseri. “Most doctors feel it’s better to treat the nose topically and holistically than flush the whole body with decongestants, antihistamines and drying agents—it’s just a more direct path to the problem.”

Your Path To Allergy Wellness Starts Here

Allergies don't have to disrupt your life. Sesame Care Allergists provide top-notch care on your terms.

Book Now


Nasal Spray For Allergies: Types, Side Effects And Effectiveness (2024)


Which nasal allergy spray is most effective? ›

Experts say that over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory nasal sprays—such as FLONASE nasal sprays or Nasacort® 24 Hour—are the most effective form of nasal allergy symptom relief.

What allergy nasal spray has the least side effects? ›

Of the different types of allergy nasal sprays, saline nasal spray is known to cause the fewest side effects because it does not contain any medication.

What is the best nasal spray for seniors? ›

Steroid nasal sprays, such as Flonase (fluticasone propionate), are some of the best allergy medicines for older adults. Astepro (azelastine) nasal spray, and non-drowsy oral antihistamines, such as Allegra (fexofenadine) are also first-choice options. All of these allergy medications are safe for older adults.

What nasal spray is safe to use daily? ›

Nasal steroids sprays (Flonase®, Nasocort®, Nasonex®, etc. ) are safe to use on a daily basis and are now largely over-the-counter. These sprays are non-addictive and typically do not cause any long term changes to the nasal passages.

Is Flonase or Nasacort better? ›

Official answer. Nasacort and Flonase are equally effective, safe, and well tolerated for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Therefore the choice of either Nasacort or Flonase comes down to personal preference, availability or price.

What is the best nasal spray Consumer Reports? ›

Antihistamine nasal sprays: If you've been faithfully using a nasal steroid for a couple of weeks and you're still uncomfortable, the guidelines recommend adding in a daily prescription nasal antihistamine spray, such as azelastine (Astelin, Astepro, and generic) or olopatadine (Patanase and generic).

What is the safest decongestant for seniors? ›

Saline spray or a saline nasal wash

Mucus buildup in your sinus passages is never fun, and Linnebur says these remedies should be the first choice of relief for older adults.

Is Flonase safe for seniors? ›

Reduce allergy symptoms

Consider using: An OTC steroid nasal spray such as fluticasone (Flonase and generic), triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ and generic) or budesonide (Rhinocort Aqua). These are the first-line treatments for allergies and are considered safe for seniors, Worz says.

Is there a healthy nasal spray? ›

Saline nasal spray is a safe treatment and most people don't have side effects.

Is it better to take FLONASE at night or in the morning? ›

Is it better to use FLONASE at night? In short, no. One daily dose of FLONASE Allergy Relief delivers 24-hour relief from your worst allergy symptoms. So, even if you take it in the morning, you're still covered for all night long, without pesky allergy symptoms.

Can you take FLONASE every day for years? ›

Can I use FLONASE year round? If you are 12 years old or older and have been using FLONASE steadily for 6 months, check with your doctor before continuing to use FLONASE on a daily basis. For users aged 4 to 11, talk to your doctor about continuing to take FLONASE after 2 months of daily use.

Does FLONASE raise blood pressure? ›

FLONASE Allergy Relief has a well-established safety profile. FLONASE Allergy Relief is NOT associated with: Higher blood pressure and is not contraindicated in patients with hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, or kidney disease.

Which is the best nasal spray for a blocked nose? ›

For nasal congestion, we recommend Otrivine Sinusitis Relief Nasal Spray. The spray delivers an exact medicated dose of xylometazoline hydrochloride inside the nostril to relieve the nasal congestion as well as helping to ease the sinusitis pain and pressure that you may be feeling.

Which is more effective Flonase or Zyrtec? ›

FLONASE, a nasal spray, tends to be more effective for nasal symptoms like congestion, while Zyrtec, an oral antihistamine, may be better for symptoms like itching and hives. Individual responses vary, so personal trial is beneficial. What Should You Know About Allergies?

Which is better, Afrin or Flonase? ›

Is Afrin or Flonase better? Afrin provides a faster response to congestion with an onset of action within 10 minutes. It is not recommended for use longer than three days, however. Flonase is slower to relieve congestion symptoms but can be used safely long term.

Which is better, Flonase or Nasonex? ›

Official answer. The difference is Flonase is available over-the-counter (OTC) and Nasonex is prescription only. There is no difference in their effect or side effects. Flonase and Nasonex are both corticosteroid nasal sprays that are effective at treating hay fever, perennial allergic rhinitis and allergies.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kieth Sipes

Last Updated:

Views: 6135

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kieth Sipes

Birthday: 2001-04-14

Address: Suite 492 62479 Champlin Loop, South Catrice, MS 57271

Phone: +9663362133320

Job: District Sales Analyst

Hobby: Digital arts, Dance, Ghost hunting, Worldbuilding, Kayaking, Table tennis, 3D printing

Introduction: My name is Kieth Sipes, I am a zany, rich, courageous, powerful, faithful, jolly, excited person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.