Stop and smell the flowers: How to use nose spray correctly

When your nose is unhappy, you know it. Whether the source of your symptoms is inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis) or irritation of the mucous membrane inside the nose (rhinitis) a stuffy, congested, or runny nose is no fun. Maybe you have allergies, and you know when to start your medicine to head off sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes that come with your familiar irritant. Maybe you don’t have allergies, but your morning starts with a stuffy nose that only saline nasal spray can ease due to dryness in the room or a cold. 

Are all nasal sprays the same?

People with allergies are all too familiar with the signs of pollen, dust, or other irritants in their environment. Steroid nasal spray, prescribed by your doctor, is an effective way of treating common nasal conditions. Sometimes being able to rinse out the nasal cavity when treating common colds, dryness in climate-controlled rooms, or shedding that nasty feeling of being on a long flight can bring relief. Ancient Ayurvedic practices promote saline rinsing of the nasal cavity to address many of these discomforts; saline sprays are the contemporary response to that practice. A third group of nasal medications include some form of menthol in the spray for the purpose of relieving congestion. While there are plenty of oral medications for both colds and allergies, sometimes rinsing the nasal cavity or applying medication directly on the membranes feels soothing.

What is proper nose spray technique? 

Research has shown that a couple of tweaks in technique delivers medicine to the nasal cavity where it belongs instead of running down your throat. Follow these directions for the most effective administration of nasal spray:

  1. Blow your nose on both sides, then wash your hands.
  2. Remove the cap from the product.
  3. Hold the medicine dispenser or saline upright and somewhat level to ensure flow into the nasal cavity. Keep your head upright and do not fling your head back. Tilting your head back while snorting in only increases the likelihood it will run down the back of your throat and taste terrible. 
  4. Keeping your head upright and the bottle upright, gently press the skin to the side of one nostril away from the nose.
  5. Using the hand opposite the side where the medicine is going (right hand guiding medicine into left nostril and vice-versa), place the nasal spray into one nostril. 
  6. Slightly tilt the bottle up, angled toward the outer edge of your nostril.
  7. Spray or squeeze the container and breathe in a small sniff. 

Proper nose spray technique helps to ensure that you are receiving the proper dosage of each spray. Dr. Z. explains how this works: “Studies looking at the aiming of nasal sprays have shown that if one uses their opposite hand; right hand sprays into left nostril and vice versa, it angles the spray away from the lining of the nasal septum. This method reduces the risk of nasal bleeding. It also targets the spray more directly to the swollen turbinates in the nasal passages, which are the desired tissue areas to treat.”

What does this mean for you as an AAPRI patient?

As always, the dedicated nurse practitioners and staff at AAPRI are available for your questions and concerns,  including how to use nose spray properly, when saline nose spray might help your symptoms, or natural suggestions for allergies or colds. If you have questions, feel free to contact us anytime.


Getting the proper dosage of allergy medicine or clearing out the clutter in the nasal cavity during pollen season can put a spring in your step. By learning to administer a nose spray properly, you will give the medicine or saline a chance to clear your symptoms, while avoiding pitfalls such as nose bleeds or wasting medicine.  

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