Addiction to nasal spray – recognize and treat

Finally, the days are getting brighter again and the flowers are starting to bloom. If only there were not the annoying pollen, to which so many are allergic. Constant sneezing and a chronically blocked nose are part of everyday life for many. The solution sounds tempting and simple: nasal spray. But many people become addicted to nasal spray.

In seconds, the nose is swollen down and free breathing is possible again. But unfortunately it is not quite that simple. Nasal spray has an extremely high risk of addiction, which many underestimate. According to the Barmer health insurance fund, an estimated 100,000 – 120,000 people in the Federal Republic of Germany suffer from nasal spray addiction. The actual number is estimated to be much higher, as many people are not even aware that they are addicted.

The mode of action of nasal sprays is explained quite simply. The ingredients xylometazoline or oxymetazoline cause the blood vessels to contract, reducing blood flow. As a result, the nasal mucosa swells and nothing stands in the way of taking a deep breath through the nose. Unfortunately, this is exactly what causes the addiction to nasal spray.

Recognize addiction to nasal spray

But what exactly is the danger? If you use nasal spray over a longer period of time, a so-called rebound effect sets in. This means that the nasal spray does exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to do – it clogs the nose only a short time after it has been used. The mucous membranes get used to the ingredients, they dry out, swell up again faster and faster and block the nose.

This leads to an increased consumption of nasal spray, to addiction to nasal spray. One thus enters a vicious circle. But that is not enough. The permanent irritation of the nasal mucosa dries it out more and more, making it more susceptible to viruses and bacteria. The bottom line: colds become more frequent. Experts therefore advise not to use nasal sprays for longer than a week.

Treat addiction to nasal spray

But what way out of an addiction to nasal spray is there once you’ve fallen into it? There are several methods to kick the nasal spray habit. In the best case, such a plan should be discussed in advance with an ENT specialist.

The radical weaning: consistently stop using the nasal spray. It is by far the hardest way, but after two weeks the ordeal is over and the nose should be free again.

Gradual discontinuation: The nasal spray can also be weaned off gradually by minimizing the dosage step by step until you can ultimately do without it altogether. Tip: If you have been taking nasal spray for adults up to now, you can switch to a nasal spray for children as a first step and then to one for infants. This way, the intervals do not have to be increased, but the dosage can simply be reduced.

Another way would be to fill up an opened bottle with sterile water so that the medication is diluted and the dosage is minimized.

Unilateral weaning: this approach involves using the nasal spray on only one side until the other side weans. If one can breathe freely again through the weaned nostril, the point has come when the nasal spray can be omitted altogether.

Alternatives to the nasal spray

But are there helpful alternatives to nasal spray? Salt water nasal sprays are completely harmless. Inhalation can also provide relief for a blocked nose. But let’s be honest, with a real cold or a strong pollen allergy, nothing helps as well as a nasal spray. However, for short use, it is also perfectly fine to fall back on a conventional nasal spray.

And one more thing should be said: As a rule, the nasal mucosa recovers completely after overcoming an addiction.

Text: mabelle