Over the counter nasal sprays can provide quick relief from a stuffy nose, but did you know they can be addicting? Using certain nasal sprays such as Afrin and Neo-Synephrine for more than three consecutive days can actually make the problem worse.
Nasal sprays with main ingredients like oxymetazoline and phenylephrine work by constricting blood vessels in the nose, opening up your nasal passages so you can breathe. But after a few days, not only do these sprays often become less effective, they can also cause "rebound congestion," where your nasal passages become even more swollen and blocked than before. Now, you're trapped in a cycle where you have to depend on the spray to breathe.
But you don't need to be stuck on these sprays forever. A week or two after going cold turkey, your nose should return to normal. Here are some safe home remedies to help you relieve nasal congestion without risking an addiction:
Neti pots, which you can find at many drug stores, have been used for centuries to help relieve nasal and sinus congestion and have become increasingly popular in recent years. These small spouted pots work by literally rinsing out your nasal cavities.
To use a neti pot properly, make sure you use bottled water that has been distilled or sterilized, as otherwise you may put yourself at risk of infection (if you use tap water, boil it for several minutes and then allow it to cool completely before use). Tilt your head to the side over the sink, and pour water into one nostril – it will come out the other nostril, washing away mucous and irritants. You can then repeat on the other side. Learn more about how to safely use neti pots here.
Saline nasal sprays, a mix of sterile water and salt, work by thinning mucous and soothing nasal inflammation. If used consistently, they may also help rinse out pollen or bacteria that irritate airways. Saline sprays boost moisture and are especially helpful in winter months when the inside of the nose may dry out and be prone to bleeding.
You can buy these sprays in drugstores or make your own by mixing two to three teaspoons of non-iodized salt in a pint of bottled water that is distilled or sterilized, or in boiled water that has been allowed to cool. Then, use a bulb syringe to gently squirt the solution towards the back of your head, rather than upwards. Finally, blow your nose gently. Note: If you have any nasal deformities or problems with the nasal septum, be sure to consult your doctor before using a neti pot or a spray.
Inhaling steam from a hot shower, soup, tea or even a pot of hot water can help to open up and soothe irritated nasal passages. Humidifiers are also good if you need some help breathing at night.
Peppermint contains menthol, which helps to thin mucous and open up nasal passages. Peppermint tea combines the effect of menthol, steam and warm liquid, all of which can help speed clearance of nasal gunk.
Studies suggest that chicken soup may actually decrease mucous production by affecting immune function and inflammation, and the steam and heat will also help. If you're sick, it is also a great way to stay hydrated.