There's 1 Huge Mistake People Make When Using Nasal Spray

Knowing how to insert nasal spray into your nose makes a huge difference in its effectiveness.
Too many of us don't know how to use nasal spray correctly, and it can hurt our sinuses in the long run.
vgajic via Getty Images
Too many of us don't know how to use nasal spray correctly, and it can hurt our sinuses in the long run.

Whether it’s seasonal allergies, sinus infections or a cold, at some point, you are going to want to use a nasal spray to help out your stuffy, irritated nose.

And you’re probably inserting it all wrong, according to Texas-based allergist Dr. M. Waseem Imam. In his popular TikTok video, which has been seen over 2 million times, the physician explains that people mistakenly just spray upwards instead of understanding that the sinus cavities of your nose are located behind the hood of your nose and not vertically upwards.

“They put the spray up their nose, they go up and they spray, which is the opposite of what you wanna do,” Imam said in the video. He demonstrates by holding a highlighter alongside his nose and then tilting it back so it’s perpendicular to his face.

“The direction of the spray should actually be in this direction ― about perpendicular. So the best way to do that is to look down, put the spray up and tilt it slightly and then twist out a little bit so it sprays in this direction.” He then motions to where the sinus is in the cheek area between his eye and nose.

“That one really kind of took off,” Imam told HuffPost about his instructional video. “I didn’t know that that many people didn’t know how to use a nasal spray.”

Tilting out the spray is key so that the spray is not too concentrated in one area and can work better, Imam said. If “we don’t tilt it out, we end up inhibiting the septum, which is in the middle, and increasing the risk of nosebleeds,” he explained.

He noted that when people are congested, the nose’s turbinates, which are small structures that circulate air, swell, “so you need the spray to be able to spread out as much as possible to hit as much of those turbinates so they shrink inside, so you can breathe better out of your nose and have less congestion.“

Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network, echoed this assessment of why people should not aim toward the middle of the nose.

“He is correct as he also tells them to not aim toward [the] center of the nose and again point the nozzle outwards towards the sinuses,” she said, noting that when people point the spray inwards toward their blood vessels, this can cause irritation and nosebleeds.

If you want to remember to tilt the spray, remember to use the opposite hand for spraying in the opposite nostril. “We recommend pointing the nozzle outwards or using [your] right hand to spray in [your] left side and [your] left hand to spray in the right side,” Parikh said.

Beyond getting nosebleeds after you spray, Imam said another sign that you are not spraying correctly is if you are tasting the nasal spray, which can taste like rotten pennies if it’s an azelastine nasal spray, like Astelin or Astepro. “If it’s going to the back of the throat too quickly, it’s a sign that they’re using the spraying incorrectly,” he said.

Imam also noted that another big misconception people have about nasal sprays is that they are all the same addictive drug, when in fact, they fall into different categories with different uses. Saline sprays moisturize irritated noses, and decongestants like Afrin close off blood vessels (and are often the sprays that people become dependent on). There are also antihistamine nasal sprays that include azelastine, and steroid nasal sprays like Flonase, he said.

For seasonal allergies, “if they’re having nasal congestion, the steroid nasal spray should be the first thing to reach out for, and if that doesn’t work, then they add on to it the azelastine nasal spray. The Afrin spray for seasonal allergies is not a good idea, it’s only a good idea for somebody who has, like, an acute cold,” Imam said.

Ultimately, it just takes a little adjustment in your nasal application to make a big difference in how you may end up feeling.

So, the next time you have an irritated nose in need of relief, remember to tilt your head down, so you can help tilt the nasal spray outwards. Your sinuses will thank you.

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