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When a stuffy nose strikes, the right nasal spray can provide much-needed relief. They are available over-the-counter, so many people assume that they can use them without problems. But is this true?

The answer depends on the type of nasal spray they use. Some are safe to use daily for several months, but others can cause a "nasal spray addiction" if people use them for more than a few days.

Overuse is common. In 2014, researchers found that out of 895 participants with nasal congestion, overused their medication.

Nasal spray addiction is not a true "addiction," but it can lead to tissue damage inside the nose. This can result in swelling and long-term stuffiness that leads to further use and overuse of the spray.

In some cases, a person may need to undergo additional treatment, and possibly surgery, to correct any damage.

Knowing about the different types of nasal sprays and how to use them safely can help to prevent this problem.

Steroid nasal sprays contain a corticosteroid.

Many people think of anabolic steroids when they hear about steroids. These are popular with bodybuilders who want to improve muscle mass.

A corticosteroid is not an anabolic steroid.

Corticosteroids are useful for calming inflammation that happens because of an overactive immune system response.

They can treat conditions such as hives, skin rashes from allergies or bites, asthma, and nasal allergies.

Steroid nasal sprays apply a corticosteroid directly into the nose to treat nasal allergy symptoms, such as sneezing and a runny nose.

They can provide relief from hay fever or nasal allergies, and can often replace other allergy medications taken by mouth.

These sprays typically start working after several days of use. A person must use them every day during the allergy season to continue to find relief.

Long-term use of any type of steroid can have side effects.

These may include:

Some types of corticosteroids may slow growth in children, especially if used for a long time.

A published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found a small reduction in growth in children who used a particular type of nasal spray that contained a type of corticosteroid called fluticasone furoate.

Children should only use steroid nasal sprays under the guidance of a doctor for this reason.

Steroid nasal sprays are commonly available in stores, but some may need a doctor's prescription.

The active ingredients may appear on the package as fluticasone propionate or triamcinolone acetonide.

Are steroid nasal sprays addictive?

No. Nasal sprays with corticosteroids are safe to use daily for most people. People who need to use steroid nose sprays for 6 months or more should talk with their physician.

Decongestant sprays are available over the counter. They shrink the blood vessels in the nose temporarily. This is known as vasoconstriction. This provides short-term relief from stuffiness, but it does not cure a cold or allergies.

These sprays have different brand names, but the two main active ingredients are oxymetazoline and pseudoephedrine.

Are decongestant nasal sprays addictive?

Yes. These sprays can cause a so-called "nasal spray addiction" in some people.

This often occurs when a person uses the decongestant nasal spray too frequently or for too long.

Strictly, this is rebound congestion and not an addiction.

With rebound congestion, a person may find that they need to use the spray more frequently over time, often several times a day or more. Each time they use the spray, the blood vessels in the nose narrow, causing the tissue inside the nose to shrink.

After the medicine wears off, the nasal tissue swells again. Sometimes it swells even more than before.

If the person continues to use it, this swelling can get more severe and lead to permanent swelling of the tissue.

Long-term use of these sprays can also damage the tissue, causing infection and pain.

Symptoms of rebound congestion or dependency on nasal spray may include:

To help people avoid this problem, the (AAAAI) recommend using it no more than twice a day for only 3 days.

Those who have been using the spray more frequently should see a doctor. They will examine the nasal tissue to check for damage or excess swelling.

Typically, a person will need to stop using the spray. They may need a different medication to relieve the swelling, such as a steroid nasal spray.

Other issues with decongestant nasal sprays

In addition, sometimes people abuse pseudoephedrine by using it to make an illegal recreational drug, methamphetamine, according to information from the .

For this reason, some states may require a doctor's prescription for these products. In others, pharmacies may keep products containing this chemical behind the counter, even though they do not need a prescription.

There may also be a limit on how much you can buy each month, and individuals may have to show ID or give personal details when they buy this type of decongestant.