Prescription nasal sprays, especially intranasal corticosteroids, do a better job at treating all symptoms of allergic rhinitis when compared to oral antihistamines. Nasal corticosteroids even do a better job of treating symptoms of eye allergies than do oral antihistamines. There are some downsides to the use of nasal sprays in children, however, which often limits their use.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays need to be used routinely to have benefit. These medications take many hours to start working, and typically need to be used for a few days before they reach maximal effect. Antihistamine nasal sprays start working faster, in some cases within an hour, but still work best if used routinely.
Side effects of prescription nasal sprays also limit their use. The Pediatric Allergies in America Survey found that nearly half of children who used nasal sprays complained that the medication dripped down their throats, causing throat irritation. Other common side effects that children complained about in this study included bad taste, drying or burning within the nose, headaches and drowsiness.
In my opinion, the 2 most common complaints about nasal sprays (medication dripping down the throat and bad taste) can be prevented with correct use of the nasal spray. Incorrect technique results in many of the side effects from nasal sprays, including nosebleeds.
Learn more about the correct way to use a nasal spray.
Meltzer EO, Blaiss MS, Derebery J, et al. Burden of Allergic Rhinitis: Results From the Pediatric Allergies in America Survey. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009; 124:S43-70.
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