Nasal sprays help to breathe deeply when the nose is stuffy and thus provide rapid relief in acute colds. But with too long regular use threatens a nasal spray addiction: The nasal mucosa gets used to the drug and the spray must be used more often to achieve the desired effect.
This vicious cycle permanently damages the nasal mucosa and can lead to nosebleeds and, in extreme cases, to a so-called "stink nose" (rhinitis atrophicans). Here you will learn how to recognize a nasal spray addiction and what you can do against dependency.
Why make nasal sprays addictive
Decongestant nasal sprays usually contain the active ingredients xylometazoline or oxymetazoline. These bind to receptors of the blood vessels in the nasal mucosa and cause a vasoconstriction. As a result, the nasal mucosa swells and the nose is "free" again.
With prolonged use of nasal spray, however, there is a development of tolerance: Increased receptors are formed, which are also insensitive to the drug. This reduces the effect faster. Under certain circumstances, the nasal mucosa even swells when the effect wears off - this is called a rebound phenomenon.
Symptoms of a nasal spray addiction
A dependence on nasal spray manifests itself by an increasingly frequent as well as increasingly unsuccessful application of the spray. This is accompanied by a chronically stuffy nose.
In extreme cases, suffocation fears may even occur as part of the rebound phenomenon. Due to the decreasing effect affected people apply the nasal spray more often or switch to a preparation with higher dosage.
Dry nose as a result
As a result of the excessive use of the nasal spray, the nasal mucosa dries up: it can crack and tend to form bark. This can easily lead to nosebleeds.
In addition, the nasal mucosa is not sufficiently perfused by the constantly narrowed blood vessels and thus disturbed in their natural defense function. This leads to an increased susceptibility to respiratory tract infections.
"Stink nose" by bacteria
In severe cases, a nasal spray addiction can lead to a breakdown (atrophy) of the nasal mucosa. In this case, the mucous membrane forms together with the vessels and glands, whereby the respiratory air can not be sufficiently moistened.
The result is an enlarged nasal cavity where barking and crusting can form due to dryness. These are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria such as Klebsiella ozaenae. If this bacterial strain infects the nasal mucous membrane, a sweetish-foul smell is formed. In addition, since the olfactory nerve fibers are damaged, the stench usually first falls on the patient's relatives.
5 Facts About Nasal Spray Addiction - © istockphoto, djvstock
Fight nasal spray addiction
Getting rid of the excessive use of nasal spray is difficult for many people. Because during weaning usually a few days with a blocked nose have to be overcome. But there are a few ways that can facilitate withdrawal and reduce the risk of relapse:
- Weaning a nostril: First, do without a nostril on the spray. If this has recovered after a few days and can breathe freely without nasal spray, it is the other side's turn.
- Cortisone Spray: Get your doctor to prescribe a cortisone nasal spray. Cortisone is anti-inflammatory and reduces the swelling of the irritated nasal mucosa.
- Dose Reduction: Switch to a nasal spray for children or infants without increasing the number of applications per day. It contains a lower proportion of active ingredient and can thus contribute to weaning. Later, you can dilute the children's nasal spray with saline until you get along with pure seawater spray.
- Moisturizing the nose: Seawater nasal sprays and nasal ointments with the active ingredient dexpanthenol moisturize the nose and contribute to the regeneration of the mucous membrane.
- Pseudoephedrine tablets: Pseudoephedrine tablets may be useful in the treatment of nasal spray addiction. Pseudoephedrine also has a decongestant effect, but it does not act directly on the mucosa and therefore does not dry out. However, you should not take these medications without consulting your doctor.
In addition, it is important to find out and treat the cause of the nasal spray addiction. In many cases, for example, there is a hitherto unrecognized allergy that causes a chronically stuffy nose.
Forgetful of dependence on nasal spray, it does not make sense. For a cold, the body needs enough sleep to recover. Therefore, in case of an acute cold, you may well use the nasal spray to free the nose in the short term.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind when applying to avoid a nasal spray addiction:
- Do not use decongesting nasal sprays for more than seven days and no more than two to three times a day. If the symptoms of the cold have not improved after one week, you should consult a doctor.
- Nasal sprays for children are usually lower doses. Use the lowest dosage you can manage.
- Nasal rinsing with seawater can clear the nose without drying it out.
- Seawater nasal sprays can safely be used several times a day for a long time. They moisturize the nose and counteract dehydration.
- Sitting or lying down, the nasal mucous membrane swells up. Sometimes it already helps to get up and take some steps to clear a stuffy nose.
- Dry air heating favors the swelling of the nasal mucosa: a walk in the fresh air can work wonders with a blocked nose.