How to Use Nasal Spray

Medically reviewed by Alan Carter on June 7, 2016Written by University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Introduction

Many medications can be given into the nose with nasal spray. Most of these medications treat problems within the nose and sinus area, such as nasal congestion. Nasal sprays are available as over-the-counter or prescription drugs.

Nasal spray comes in two forms: a regular spray and a pump spray. It’s important to use these products correctly. This makes sure they deliver the medication properly so your body can absorb it.

What you’ll need

In addition to your nasal spray, you’ll need soap and water or hand sanitizer to clean your hands. You’ll also need some tissues to blow your nose before using the nasal spray.

Step-by-step instructions

You can use these instructions for using nasal spray yourself. If you’re a parent or caregiver, you can also use these steps to give nasal spray to a child or another adult.

Preparing

  1. Gather your supplies. These include the nasal spray or nasal pump spray plus tissues.
  2. Gently blow your nose to clear your nasal passages.
  3. Wash your hands with soap and water and then dry them with a clean towel or paper towel. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer instead.
  4. If directed by the product label or by your doctor or pharmacist, shake the nasal spray bottle gently.

Using the spray

The steps are slightly different for the nasal spray and the pump nasal spray.

Using a nasal spray

  1. Close the nostril that is not receiving the medication. Do this by gently pressing on that side of your nose.
  2. Gently insert the bottle tip into the other nostril.
  3. Breathe in deeply through that nostril as you squeeze the bottle. Remove the bottle and sniff once or twice.
  4. Repeat if directed. Wait at least 10 seconds between sprays.
  5. If directed, repeat steps 1–4 for the other nostril.

Using a pump nasal spray

  1. Hold the bottle with your index and middle fingers on each side of the bottle and your thumb on the bottom of the bottle.
  2. Prime the bottle. This is typically done by spraying the product one or more times into the air or into a tissue. See the product label for specific instructions.
  3. Tilt your head slightly forward.
  4. Close the nostril that is not receiving the medication. Do this by gently pressing on that side of your nose.
  5. Insert the tip of the bottle into the other nostril.
  6. Breathe in deeply through that nostril as you press down on the pump with your index and middle fingers. Remove the bottle and sniff once or twice. Repeat if directed. Wait at least 10 seconds between sprays.
  7. If directed, repeat steps 3–6 for the other nostril.

Finishing up

  1. Put the cap back on the bottle.
  2. Wait a few minutes to blow your nose after using the nasal spray.
  3. Wash your hands to remove any medication.
  4. Store the bottle as directed by the label or by your doctor or pharmacist.

Helpful tips

Do's

  • Follow the usage instructions from your doctor or the medication label. Use your nasal spray for only as long as recommended, or else it could cause problems. For instance, sprays used to relieve congestion can actually make congestion worse if they’re used for too long.
  • Talk to your doctor if you develop nosebleeds or irritation in your nose. Your doctor can help you relieve these problems or they can find a different medication for you.

Don'ts

  • Don’t allow the spray tip to touch anything besides the inside of your nose. If the tip touches any other surface, it could pick up bacteria or other germs that could cause an infection in your nose.
  • Don’t share your nasal spray with anyone else. Sharing your nasal spray could spread germs or infection.

Talk with your doctor

If you have any problems with your nasal spray, call your doctor. Also call your doctor if:

  • your condition doesn’t improve after using the spray as directed
  • you have a nosebleed that doesn’t slow down or stop after 15–20 minutes
  • you have any questions about using your nasal spray

To help your nasal spray work well, follow these instructions and any directions on the nasal spray label or from your doctor or pharmacist. These steps can help you use your nasal spray easily and safely.

Q:

What conditions are nasal sprays used to treat?

A:

Nasal sprays are often used to treat symptoms of allergies and colds such as congestion, sneezing, and runny nose. But they can be used for other purposes as well. For instance, Tamiflu nasal spray, which contains the drug oseltamivir, can be used to treat the flu. Another nasal spray, which contains the drug calcitonin, can be used to treat osteoporosis in women after menopause. And still another nasal spray, which contains the drug butorphanol, can be used to treat pain.

Healthline Medical TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
CMS Id: 104940