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Nasal Sprays: Using Them Correctly

Sep 14, 2023
Nasal Sprays: Using Them Correctly

If you use them correctly, nasal sprays are an effective way to deliver medications across the lining of your nose and into your bloodstream. Unfortunately, many people have the medication drip out of their noses or down their throats. When this happens, very little medication is absorbed.

Nasal sprays are pain-free and convenient ways to deliver medication, but when the drug drips down the back of your throat, it tastes terrible. Once it enters the stomach, stomach acid and digestive juices dilute the medication and change its properties. Only a small amount is absorbed, and it undergoes first-pass metabolism in the liver.

How does a nasal spray work?

The inside lining of your nose is rich in blood vessels. The inner lining of the nose is a thin mucous membrane covered with mucus. Medications in nasal sprays are absorbed across this membrane into the bloodstream.

At the top of the nose is a plexus of nerves for the sense of smell. The back of the nose is continuous with the upper part of the throat and the sinuses. Mucus produced in the nose can drain into the back of the throat, as can nasal spray if it is snorted or breathed too deeply into the nose.

Cross-section of the nose and sinuses

How should you use a nasal spray?

Before using your nasal spray, read the instructions, verify your dosage, and check the medication’s expiration date. Remove any guards or caps before use.

1. Wash your hands with soap and water before using the nasal spray.

2. Gently blow your nose to remove any mucus in your nose. Rinse your nose with a saline rinse if you have a lot of mucus in it.

3. Prime the nasal spray before first use if it is an aerosol pump. Push down on the lever until a dose of the medication mist is delivered. Liquid nasal sprays may require shaking before use.

A nasal spray

4. Tilt your head forward so it is level. Some people find that tilting their whole body forward at the waist and looking at the ground makes it easier to use a nasal spray.

5. Hold the nasal spray bottle by putting the tip between your index and middle fingers and your thumb at the bottom. Use the opposite hand when delivering the medication into each nostril. The angle of the tip of the bottle should be about 30 degrees.

6. Gently pull on the side of the nostril toward the ear with the hand on the same side. Insert the nasal spray tip about a quarter to a half inch into your nostril and prepare to squirt the medication toward the outside wall of your nose. Don’t spray the liquid toward the septum, the wall that divides your nostrils. Doing so can irritate it and cause a nosebleed.

7. When holding the spray bottle, squeeze it or push down on the top to release the spray into your nose.

8. Breathe in slowly when using a nasal spray. Sniff gently if necessary to keep the medication from dripping out of your nose. Don’t snort it, or the liquid will go into the back of your throat.

9. Replace the cap and store the medication safely.

A person using a nasal spray

The longer the medication stays in your nose, the more effective it will be. Don’t lean backward when using a nasal spray.

Avoid snorting the medication into your throat or blowing your nose for 15 minutes or so after using a nasal spray.

After using your nasal spray, store it away from direct sunlight. Do not share nasal sprays. Keep them out of the reach of children.

What kind of medications are delivered by nasal spray?

Nasal spray delivery is a common method for administering nasal decongestants and corticosteroids, but other drug manufacturers also use it.

For example, oxytocin, PT-141, and NAD+ can all be delivered using a nasal spray.

Nasal sprays are specially designed to allow for the best absorption through the nasal cavity. If you are unsure whether you are using a nasal spray correctly, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Follow all dosing and administration guidelines for the best results when using nasal sprays.

Nasal Sprays: Using Them Correctly
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

Nasal Sprays: Using Them Correctly

Leann Poston, M.D.

Dr. Leann Poston is a licensed physician in the state of Ohio who holds an M.B.A. and an M. Ed. She is a full-time medical communications writer and educator who writes and researches for Invigor Medical. Dr. Poston lives in the Midwest with her family. She enjoys traveling and hiking. She is an avid technology aficionado and loves trying new things.


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