The risks of using nasal spray to alleviate allergies

Local doctors are bracing for a rough allergy season due to the mild winter
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 7:36 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Spring... it’s the season for flowers, sunshine, and sniffles.

Since we didn’t see much snow this past winter, doctors are bracing for a rough allergy season.

“It’s going to be a bit more severe because we didn’t have time to freeze things out like we normally would,” said Dr. Jeffrey Swartz, who works as a Primary Care Physician at Mercy Health - Waterville Primary Care.

A common treatment for runny nose and congestion is nasal steroids and sprays.

“What the nasal steroid does is sensitize your nose and your sinus cavity to those allergens, so it kind of knocks down the immune response so you don’t have a hyper response and get the congestion, bad runny nose, and the eyes and everything with that,” said Dr. Swartz.

But nasal sprays can come with a risk.

“There are different kinds of nasal sprays; some of the nasal sprays can become addictive, and that becomes difficult to treat because you will feel relief and it keeps symptoms coming back, but there are others for long-term use,” said Toledo Clinic allergist Dr. Binod Thakur.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, some people can damage their nasal passages if they use a decongestant nasal spray for longer than a few days. When this happens, your condition might worsen if you stop using the spray.

Michelle Thornsberry’s husband has used Afrin, a type of nasal spray, for eight years. She says while he tried to quit at the beginning of the year, it’s still a daily issue for him.

“He’s still struggling, and that was three months ago, and he’s still like, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.’ He’s literally addicted to it because it’s not relieving his symptoms as he’d like,” said Thornsberry.

Her message to people before they pick up the bottle.

“Don’t get caught in the vicious circle of using nasal spray, I know it’s hard because it helps you breathe, but in the long term, it’s making your issue worse,” said Thornsberry.

Doctors suggest consulting with your primary care doctor or an allergist before taking a nasal spray or steroid, even if it is over the counter. An allergist can also help develop a treatment plan if you or someone you know has relied on nasal sprays.

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