Nasal Corticosteroids (Nose Sprays)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last Reviewed: September 2022

There are many different corticosteroids (steroids) designed to be used as nose sprays. These drugs treat allergy symptoms by reducing swelling and inflammation in the nose. They make breathing through the nose easier. Nose sprays can be some of the most effective medicines to treat allergy symptoms like sneezing and a stuffy nose.1-6

This group of drugs is used for seasonal allergies such as tree pollens in the spring, grasses in early summer, and ragweed in late summer and fall. Corticosteroid nasal sprays are the preferred therapy for congestion, nose itching, and stuffiness.1-6

How do nose sprays work?

A corticosteroid spray reduces swelling and mucus in the nasal and sinus passages. This symptom is most often caused by hay fever (allergic rhinitis). These drugs relieve a stuffy, runny, and itchy nose.1

Regular use of nasal steroids may make the nasal passages less sensitive to allergens like pollen, pet dander, or dust mites.1

These sprays act directly in the nose and have fewer side effects than steroids taken by mouth or injected.4

Types of nasal sprays

There are many types of nasal steroids: sprays and aerosols. The spray is sprayed into the nose while sniffing gently. The aerosols are mists sprayed in the nose without the need to inhale. Some of these medicines are available over-the-counter, and others only with a prescription.2,5,6

Over-the-counter nasal steroids include:2,5,6

  • Fluticasone (Flonase®)
  • Triamcinolone (Nasacort®)
  • Flunisolide (Nasalide®)
  • Mometasone (Nasonex®)
  • Budesonide (Rhinocort®)

Prescription nasal corticosteroids include:2,5,6

  • Beclomethasone (Beconase®)
  • Ciclesonide (Omnaris®)
  • Azelastine/fluticasone (Dymista®)

Prescription aerosols:3

  • Beclomethasone (Qnasl®)
  • Ciclesonide (Zetonna™)

What are the possible side effects of nose sprays?

Side effects can vary depending on the specific drug you are using. Common side effects of nasal corticosteroids include:3,4,6

  • Nosebleeds
  • Burning, dryness or irritation inside the nose
  • Irritation of the throat

Tell your doctor if you have had or develop any unusual or allergic reaction to any nose spray you use. Also tell your doctor if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. Always read your directions carefully.6

These are not all the possible side effects of nose sprays. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking any of these drugs. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when using nose sprays.

Things to know about nose sprays

Steroid nose sprays are most effective when used consistently. This is because it can take a few weeks for the drug to reach full effectiveness. It can feel like a long time if you have bothersome symptoms. It is very important to use the correct technique for nasal sprays to be effective. Aim the nozzle toward the ear on the same side of the nose and sniff gently.2,5,6

Some people begin using a nasal spray before their seasonal allergies start. Ongoing symptom relief can help you feel and sleep better.6

Nasal corticosteroids are generally safe for adults, including those who are pregnant. Some are safe for children. It is always important to discuss with your doctor which medicine is right for you. It can be a process of trial and error to find the best nasal spray.4-6

Before beginning any allergy treatment, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

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