Rebound nasal congestion

dexx215February 17, 2005

I just got over a bad case of the flu and a cold, with my poor nose all stuffed up. For two weeks I have been using nasal spray to clear my nose, but now I feel fine except for my stuffed up nose. Have to use nasal spray about every two hours. What do I do now? Will a saline solution help? Can't sleep with my plugged up nose.

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When you say nasal spray, are you talking about over the counter stuff like Afrin? You really shouldn't use those for more than a few days, as you can quickly become dependant on them. I had the same problem a few years ago -- I couldn't breath freely without the spray, and became "addicted" to it.

At they have an article about nasal spray, and they say specifically about ones like Afrin:

Caution must be taken because decongestant nasal sprays can be one of the most hazardous remedies available. Over-the-counter and prescription decongestant nose sprays should not be used for more than a few days. Some users quickly fall into the situation of becoming dependent and addicted to the nasal spray.

If a nasal spray doesn't help you breathe freely during the recommended time between doses, resist the impulse to use the spray more often. Many doctors believe excessive and prolonged use of the over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays cause blood vessels in the nose to stay swollen rather than shrink back to their normal state and can lead to even more congestion and swelling of the nasal passages.

I would probably go talk to your doctor, if possible. If not, stop using the spray (throw it away so you don't even feel tempted -- that's the only way I could get myself to stop using it; trust me, I know how it feels to not be able to breath!), and start taking a decongestant in pill form like Benadryl for a few days. The first couple of days might be rough, but once you get over the dependancy on the nasal spray, things should clear up.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2005 at 5:21PM
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Wow. Is the same true of the saline nasal sprays?

    Bookmark   February 18, 2005 at 5:49PM
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Thanks, rivkadr. Never thought of Benadryl. At 5 a.m. I woke, unable to breathe, but waited for about an hour until I couldn't help it and sprayed just a little in one nostril, so I could sleep. All day I have been almost clear, except for the nostril that I sprayed! Tonight I'll go cold turkey and try nothing.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2005 at 6:34PM
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No, saline nasal sprays should be fine, based on the info in that link above. Another common kind of nasal sprays are the steroidal ones for allergies, that I use daily. There's all different kinds of nasal sprays -- it's just the over the counter decongestant ones that you especially need to be careful of, that I'm aware of (Note: I'm not a doctor ;) I just ran into this same problem myself in the past, so have a little experience with it).

    Bookmark   February 19, 2005 at 3:41PM
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OTC decongestant sprays will have the rebound effect..... saline won't and as far as I know neither will the steroid ones like Nasonex.
And....speaking from experience....the only way to get over the addiction is to go cold turkey....not easy but neither is the alternative!
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 21, 2005 at 12:33PM
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My friend was addicted to it and the doc told her to do one side only, until the other side was open then quit.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2005 at 11:34AM
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Saline does NOT have the "rebound effect".

And going cold turkey on them is about the only way to get over it. The good news is that you can use the decongestants in the future - it's not a true addiction, it's a physical condition. Just don't overdo it. Try the saline sprays first, with the decongestant as a last resort.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2005 at 11:57AM
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saline's got nothing in it to 'rebound'

and gods know that when I have a flare up, I've got to flush the ick out every hour or two!

the nasal sprays like Afrin? gaads- I can't take them at full strength in the first place. the first think I do is cut them half and half with saline, and then use half the 'recommended' dose.

benadryl's a good choice- it deals with the histamine reaction end of the swelling, and address the inflamation whereas sudafed and the like do as much harm as them seem to do good (not to mention, with all the news coverage about pseudoephinephrine and ephedra causing heart attacks, you'd think people would clue in to it not being any healthier for you than the street druck 'speed')

I've had great results with the 4-way saline spray- the eucalyptus really is soothing to inflamed sinuses.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 1:20PM
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One of my patients had success stopping her Afrin dependency by stopping one nostril at a time. That should half the discomfort and gradual dilution as suggested by Chinacat might further ease the ordeal. I wish I had known that when I came off many years ago and suffered through several day of brick solid rebound nasal congestion.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 1:51PM
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I realize this is sort of an old post, but I wanted to add that I can't take stuff like sudafed or afrin for a stopped up nose because I'm too sensitive to it. But I've learned to use Mucinex (guaifenesin), and drink tons of water. It helps alot.
I've had 2 sinus surgeries, and am doing alot better. But I make a homemade nasal spray and use that on a regular basis. Some of us just don't seem to make enough thin mucous and the saline helps alot.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 8:33PM
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catherinet, I am VERY sensitive to a long list of meds both OTC and prescription my doc has me on NasalCrom (OTC)6-8 sprays per nostral daily. It has help! I use a OTC saline nasal spray daily and would not go w/out it! It has made a big differance in my life wish I know about it years ago.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 9:44PM
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At least two (2) posters have stated that saline sprays do not have a rebound effect. THAT IS NOT TURE! I'm not saying that they have a rebound effect for everyone, but they do for me. However, if I refill the container with contact lense solution which has no preservative, then there is no reboud effect. Otherwise, generous use of the saline spray causes my nose and throat to burn for hours.

The rebound effect of Afrin (oxymetazoline) for many users is caused by the preservative and not by the active ingredient.

As for dependency on Afrin, some of us have nasal problems not caused by the spray. Several times, under medical supervision, I have got off of it for weeks and the congestion persisted. Oral medications did not help. If I use a non-steroidal anti-inflamatory spray once a day, then I need to spray each nostril with only one spray of Afrin daily; it lasts for more than 24 hours and I do not need to increase the dose to keep my nose clear. So far, that seems to be the best solution for me.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 4:28PM
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I really like nostrilla (funny name) it lasts for 12 hours.When I found I needed it more when sick,I'd alternate use of the nose spray with a decongestant you take orally (like sudafed?)
I have never heard of saline spray having a rebound effect~it says it is safe to use everyday.Some even say using saline spray can in fact Flush out bacteria and keep you from getting sick in the first place.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 12:24AM
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I seem to recall that AFRIN was available by prescription only up until about 10 or 12 years ago. Does anyone know whether or not this is so?



    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 2:10PM
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The only thing I have found that reliably removes the cause of nasal congestion is taking the "load" off my body with a lighter diet. My ENT agrees that most allergy/congestion problems manifest when we are overloaded with not just environmental allergens, but too much toxicity or just plain too much food backed up in the system. Every time I go on a 100% raw food diet, I get rid of my frustating 24/7, 99.9& blocked nasal congestion completely in about a week. If I'm not feeling that rigorous about my diet, it takes longer. Drugs are fine when we need to cope quickly so we can get sleep, but they actually add to the congestion/toxicity problem in the long run. The problem comes back when I overload, and if a bug is going around I'll catch it. If I'm taking care of myself by eating light, clean foods, everyone around me gets sick and I stay healthy. Good luck, I can truly, truly empathize with the frustration of nasal congestion.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 2:50PM
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Hi fre0,
what is the name of your non steroidal anti-inflamatory nasal spray? I checked my pharmacy but they need a name to research it.
Nothing works for me except afrin but i have to use it too often now to get results.


    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 8:08PM
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Interesting how uninformed people are. The ingredient in the nasal sprays that cause the rebound effect is benzalkonium chloride, a preservative. Most of the cheaper saline sprays, steroid nasal sprays and OTC decongestant sprays have it added. Also, so-called "all Natural" sprays like Sinol also have it. Don't believe me? Do a search on benzalkonium chloride and see just what exactly you are spraying into your nose-it's a nasty chemical.

Rhinocort AQ doesn't have benzalkonium chloride as a preservative. Flonase does.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 4:10AM
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I admit I haven't read all the letters, but I am on oxygen 24/7 and I have no choice but to have dryness. Try nasal washes if you have allergies or cold ...etc. I saw it on Oprah and bought mine in Walmart but many drugstores carry them. Ask pharmacist. It is simple to use and it flushes out the sinues and the liquid used is a non-ironized salt mixture and preferably distilled water that you can make at home. I then use a little bit of AYR gel which is also saline based to keep it moist.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 8:17PM
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I have a POSITIVE STORY about getting over rebound congestion caused by overuse of a decongestant nasal spray (a generic version of Afrin)!

This may be boring, but when I was suffering with a totally stopped up nose and looking around on the web for information about recovering from the condition, I couldn't really find out what it would be like or how long it would take. So hopefully I can help fill in the information gap here.

I initially started using the decongestant nasal spray because I was dealing with a case of the common cold and had a stuffy nose. Foolishly, I didn't read the spray bottle label closely, so I didn't realize that using the product for more than 3 days was a bad idea, nor did I know it could result in so-called 'rebound congestion' (I had never even heard the term before). So I used the spray for about a week. I would feel better for hours after taking the spray, breathing easily through a clear nose. But afterward my nose would get horribly congested. It felt like a brick wall in my sinuses--way worse than any congestion I'd ever had with a cold before. I got suspicious that the spray was contributing to my problem, so I did a little research online and found out about the ironic side effect of the nasal decongestant spray.

I was determined to kick the nasal spray cycle and dove into recovery. After trying the cold turkey method of avoiding use of the spray altogether, which lasted about an hour (haha), I decided to wean myself off by using the spray in my left nostril only. I would really recommend trying this for anyone suffering from rebound congestion because it worked well for me. By spraying in one nostril, you allow your non-medicated nostril to begin healing from the effects of the rebound congestion, and in the meantime you can still get by with one clear, medicated nostril. This allows you to talk, eat and breathe at least somewhat normally while you're recovering.

I started this weaning process on a Sunday night. I sprayed in my left nostril Sunday evening and then once in the morning on Monday. To my surprise, this was the last time I felt spraying was at all necessary. By Monday night, my right nostril (the one that I had stopped using spray in) had gotten A LOT better. It was still stuffy, but it felt more like the congestion of an average cold, not the horrible, completely clogged nose I'd been experiencing due to rebound congestion. By Tuesday night, both nostrils were feeling a lot better, and throughout the course of the week they kept getting noticeably clearer. It's now Friday evening and I am feeling almost completely better. Damn does it feel nice to breathe through my nose--and without the use of medicine!

I was worried that the recovery period would be much more frustrating and gradual. Bu it really wasn't too bad.

My heart goes out to folks suffering from the cycle of rebound congestion due to these sprays. I hope that my story gives people confidence to move forward with breaking the uncomfortable cycle for good.


-Ms. Hobbes

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 12:32AM
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