Blocked noses, non-stop sneezing, watery eyes and dripping mucus. Nasal congestion can be a real nuisance and ruin your day. Your first instinct might be to get some nasal spray at the nearby pharmacy. But, before you start your search for nasal sprays in Singapore, you should understand the different types and their uses.

In general, nasal sprays in Singapore are a type of decongestant. They are commonly used to relieve symptoms of sinusitis, allergic rhinitis and nasal congestion caused by viral or bacterial infections. 

All of these conditions can affect your nasal passage, causing nasal congestion. Though they all result in the same irritations, they may have different reactions to nasal sprays. Here, we take a look at how effective each type of nasal spray is and how each of them can help your blocked nose.

How effective is a nasal spray or decongestant?

Each type of nasal spray in Singapore has its own set of pros and cons; not all of them are effective at relieving nasal congestion. 

One might be great at providing relief, while another is better at treating the root cause. Some might even offer short-lived ease, but don’t help in relieving nasal congestion.

It’s important to know the potential pitfalls that come with the use of decongestants. You need to also be aware of the correct ways to use nasal sprays. They are safe and effective only when they are used as directed. 

Misuse of nasal sprays can cause long-term damage and complications, and excessive use may result in the rebound effect known as “rhinitis medicamentosa”.  

Excessive use of nasal sprays

The rebound effect, also known as rhinitis medicamentosa, refers to nasal congestion or rhinitis that is triggered by the overuse of topical vasoconstrictive medications, most notably nasal decongestants. In this instance, the excessive use of nasal spray decongestants is the cause of congestion. This can happen when you use the nasal spray more regularly than directed. 

This leads to a rebound effect, which occurs when your nose becomes less responsive to the effects of the nasal spray due to the overuse and the nasal spray will further irritate your nasal linings. As a result, you may need to use more and more of the nasal spray to control congestion and might even find yourself requiring higher doses. 

You might end up in a never-ending cycle of nasal spray use and become dependent on them. While it can lead to dependency, it most likely won’t lead to an addiction. 

Here are some potential complications that can arise from the overuse of nasal sprays:

  • The nasal congestion may worsen
  • You may damage the nasal membrane
  • You might become overly dependent on the sprays for clear nasal passageways

Thus, do take note and be cautious when using a nasal spray. These are some signs of excessive use that you should try to avoid: 

  • Use of nasal spray for more than a week
  • Use of nasal spray more frequently than directed
  • Congestion upon skipping a dose 

As a rule of thumb, over-the-counter nasal sprays should not be used for more than five days for adults. For children, this period should be even shorter. 

A man using a bottle of nasal spray in Singapore
Overuse of nasal sprays can make your nasal congestion worse.

What are the types of nasal sprays available in Singapore? 

In most pharmacies and clinics in Singapore, you will be able to find three different types of nasal sprays: 

  1. Steroid nasal sprays
  2. Saline nasal sprays and rinses
  3. Menthol nasal sprays

These types of nasal sprays are available for treating common nasal congestions caused by conditions such as allergic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis. 

1. Steroid nasal sprays

Steroid nasal sprays contain corticosteroids, which are man-made steroid hormones working by decreasing inflammation. 

Steroid nasal sprays are effective at reducing congestion, sneezing, itchy watery eyes and runny noses. They reduce the inflammation in your nasal cavity to relieve the symptoms and are suitable for persistent, moderate or severe allergic rhinitis. 

However, they might not work as well for sinusitis or viral and bacterial infections. You should also avoid using them if you only have a semi-blocked nose or mild nasal irritation. 

How steroid nasal sprays work

Steroid nasal sprays work by applying a corticosteroid directly into the nose to treat nasal allergy symptoms. Some common steroid nasal sprays are fluticasone, mometasone and budesonide.

If you happen to swallow the spray accidentally, don’t be alarmed. Steroid nasal sprays are safe if ingested in small amounts.

Side effects of steroid nasal sprays

Steroid nasal sprays do not usually cause any significant side effects if used correctly and at normal doses. The common side effects are slight discomfort or irritation in the nose. These side effects are usually not serious and are temporary. Other less common and rare side effects include dry and irritated throat, headache, bad smell and cough. To reduce these side effects, you should always use the correct nasal spray in the way you are taught by your doctor. 

Have a sore throat? Here’s what you can do to relieve it. 

Steroid nasal sprays in Singapore usually come with a prescription and detailed instructions. They are usually safe for long-term use. Your doctor will monitor you for any side effects if you need to use the steroid nasal spray for a long time. It’s important to carefully follow the doctor’s instructions when using a steroid nasal spray.

2. Saline nasal spray and rinses

Saline nasal sprays are considered to be a more ‘natural’ remedy to treat blocked noses. They are drug-free and made from a simple salt solution. They are said to be a safe and effective option for long-term relief of symptoms of allergic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis.

Saline solution is commonly used instead of regular water due to the moisturising properties. Saline nasal sprays can help restore moisture to dry nasal passages and the sinus cavities, and curb inflammation of your mucous membranes. 

In fact, some doctors who prescribe steroid nasal sprays may recommend using a saline nasal spray to clear the mucus, before using the steroid nasal sprays. The thick layer of mucus in your nasal passage can impede the effectiveness of the steroid nasal sprays. Using the saline nasal spray will effectively help to thin out your mucus first. 

How saline nasal sprays work

Saline nasal sprays rely on the physical action of flushing out the nasal cavity to relieve nasal congestion. The salt solution is streamed into one nostril, expelling the irritants and blockage out of the nasal cavity.

By physically clearing out the congestions, saline nasal sprays can help to:

  • Thin out the mucus in the nose
  • Reduce post nasal drip (runny nose) 
  • Cleanse your nasal passages of bacteria 
  • Flush out the particles that are causing the irritation or allergic reactions

Drawbacks of saline nasal sprays

The main drawback of the saline nasal spray is its risk of contamination. Be sure to read the product care and usage instructions carefully to reduce the risk of contamination. 

Here are some common practices to follow when you use and store saline nasal sprays: 

  • Keep the rinse bottle clean as per the manufacturer’s care instructions
  • Keep the bottle dry between uses
  • Use cooled boiled water to dissolve the premixed salt sachet

It is relatively easy to pick up a saline nasal spray over-the-counter in Singapore. Most over-the-counter saline nasal sprays are isotonic, which means that the concentration of salt in the solution is the same as that of your body. 

If you need one with a higher salt concentration, you may look for a hypertonic saline nasal spray. 

Hypertonic saline nasal sprays have a higher concentration of salt than what’s in your body and can draw out moisture, and help reduce swelling in your nasal membranes

Do take note that hypertonic saline nasal sprays are more likely to cause mild and temporary stinging or irritation compared to saline nasal sprays.

Girl using her homemade saline nasal spray to relieve her nasal congestion
It’s easy to make your own saline nasal spray.

Make your own saline nasal spray

Besides buying one at the pharmacy in Singapore, you can also choose to make your own saline nasal spray solution and decide the salt concentration in your solution. 

Here’s a short step-by-step guide to making your own saline nasal spray:

Step 1
Prepare the following:

  • Four cups of distilled or boiled water 
  • Two teaspoons of non-iodised salt
  • An airtight storage container with a lid, such as a bottle 
  • A mixing utensil
  • A bulb syringe, neti pot or plastic squirt bottle

Step 2
Wash your hands thoroughly. It is important to maintain cleanliness, especially when mixing a solution that you’ll be introducing to your body. This also helps to reduce any risks of contamination. 

Step 3
Sterilise your container and mix utensil with boiling water.

Step 4
Mix the two teaspoons of non-iodised salt with your distilled or boiled water in the container. Ensure that you’re not using sea salt since it contains additional minerals. 

Step 5
Stir the mixture with your mixing utensil until it’s completely dissolved. This is your homemade saline solution.

Step 6
Let your saline solution cool before using it with your bulb syringe or neti pot. 

If the solution stings or causes lingering discomfort, use less salt for your next saline solution mixture. Remember to store your saline solution in an airtight container and in the refrigerator when not in use to prevent the growth of bacteria.

3. Menthol Nasal Sprays

Menthol nasal sprays help to provide short-term relief from the discomfort of nasal congestion, but they don’t do anything to treat the symptoms or address the root cause of your blockage. 

How menthol nasal sprays work

Menthol nasal sprays work by acting on the menthol receptors in your nose. The cooling sensation you get from menthol nasal sprays tricks your mind into believing that you’re enjoying fresh, unrestricted airflow. 

Though they can help you feel better, tests have shown that menthol nasal sprays do little to no improvement to the congestion and obstruction in the nasal cavity. 

Here’s a quick comparison chart of the three nasal sprays available in Singapore:

Type of nasal spraySteroid nasal spraySaline nasal sprayMenthol nasal spray
Ingredients– Corticosteroids (man-made steroid hormones)– Simple salt solutions that are generally isotonic (same salt concentration as your body).– Contains menthol-based ingredients.
Effectiveness– Reduces inflammation caused by persistent, moderate or severe allergic rhinitis.– Clears excess mucus, bacteria and particles that cause allergic rhinitis. 
– Restores moisture to nasal cavities. 
– Does not resolve congestion despite patient may feel better
Immediate feeling after use– Does not provide immediate relief or discomfort. 
–  Take several days to build up to its full effect
– May have a stinging feeling immediately after use. 
– If the stinging sensation is present, try a saline solution with a lower salt concentration. 
– Immediate but a short-lived feeling of relief. 
– Menthol receptors in the nose trick your mind into believing your nasal passages are clear.
Side effects– Common side effects are slight discomfort or irritation in the nose.
– Less common and rare side effects are dry and irritated throat, headache, bad smell cough, etc.
– Potential risk of contamination when using and when storing the solution.– Adverse reaction to menthol compounds like dry nose, stinging or sneezing. 

As with all forms of medical treatment, always consult a doctor if you experience any pain or discomfort after using these nasal sprays.

Still experiencing a stuffy nose despite having used a nasal spray? Consult a doctor on MyDoc. 

How to use nasal sprays?

Nasal sprays can be tricky to use. Misuse them, and you might end up with damaged nasal lining. 

It is important to read and understand the product use guides fully before using them. Usually, the use guides will cover how to use it and what to avoid when using it. 

But, in case you’ve thrown away the packaging, here’s a general guide to using nasal sprays:

infographic on how to use nasal sprays
Nasal sprays may damage your nasal lining if they are not used properly.

Step 1. Blow your nose to clear up the passageways

To get the maximum effects of the nasal spray, try to blow out as much mucus as possible and keep your nasal cavity as clear.

Step 2. Shake the bottle

Shake the bottle well before application. This is especially important as the saline mixture might not be evenly mixed throughout the bottle.

Step 3. Block one nostril by pressing a finger against it

Your nostrils are connected. If you leave an exit open, your nasal spray may just leave the nasal cavity without having the chance to work its magic.

Step 4. Insert the nasal applicator into the other nostril

If you have a sensitive nose, you may want to aim the nose applicator to the walls of your nose. Aiming it directly up your nose may cause you to sneeze out the nasal spray altogether.

Step 5. Squeeze the pump and breathe in gently

Avoid sharp breaths to allow the chemicals in the nasal spray to go through your nasal passageways thoroughly.

Step 6. Repeat the process for the other nostril

You should do the same process for your other nostril so that both nasal passages are clear. 

Now that you have introduced foreign substances into your nose, your nose might be feeling a little funny, and you will be tempted to blow your nose or sneeze. On the contrary, you should try as much as possible to resist it. 

Refrain from blowing your nose or sneezing immediately after using the nasal spray. This will help to keep the medication in your nose and maximise its decongesting effects.

In addition, try to keep your head leaning forward. In doing so, the nasal spray liquid won’t drip down to the back of your throat. The key here is to keep the medication in your nose, and also to avoid tasting the nasal spray — which can taste pretty unpleasant or bitter.

Who should not use nasal sprays?

You should avoid using nasal sprays that contain chemicals if you have any of the following conditions. They may cause adverse effects and worsen your underlying conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart conditions
  • Diabetes

Some nasal sprays may contain substances that can raise your blood pressure and pulse rate, causing you to experience heightened nervousness, dizzy spells and difficulty in falling asleep.

Woman blowing her nose into a tissue paper before using a nasal spray in Singapore.
Take precaution when using nasal sprays to treat a viral infection such as the flu.

Be extra careful if you’re using nasal sprays to combat a viral infection like the common cold. If you’ve seen a doctor and have received a prescription of drugs, over-the-counter nasal sprays may interfere with the prescribed medication. Always consult your doctor if it’s safe for you to use a nasal spray before getting them. Drugs from certain classes such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may cause dangerous drug interaction problems when consumed with decongestants.

Make sure that you always read the labels carefully if you’re purchasing an over-the-counter nasal spray in Singapore. If you find the medical terms and chemicals used confusing, you can always consult a doctor. 

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