Nose drops and sprays

Also called nasal drops and nasal sprays

Key points about nose drops and sprays

  • Nose drops and nose sprays are used when medication needs to work directly in the nose.
  • They are commonly used to to relieve stuffiness or blocked nose caused by common cold, allergies or hay fever, among others.
  • Find out how to use them safely and possible side effects.
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They are commonly used to:

To get the most benefit use the correct technique. This ensures you receive the right amount of medication. Ask your healthcare provider to show you. The following steps are a guide:  

  • Gently blow your nose with a tissue to clear the nostrils.
  • Tilt your head back while sitting on a chair or lying down.
  • Hold the dropper over one nostril and squeeze the required number of drops.
  • Keep your head tilted for a few minutes.
  • Repeat the steps for the other nostril.
  • Wipe the dropper with a clean tissue after each use.

If you can’t put the drops in yourself, ask a family member or friend to help you.

The following steps are a guide:

  • Shake the nasal spray before use.
  • Gently blow your nose with a tissue to clear the nostrils.
  • Use your finger to close the nostril on the side not receiving the medication.
  • While keeping your head upright, place the spray tip into the open nostril.
  • Spray the medication into the open nostril as you breathe in through your nose.
  • Sniff hard a few times to be sure the medication reaches deep into the nose.
  • Repeat the steps for the other nostril.
  • Wipe the spray tip with a clean tissue after each use.
  • Replace the cap after each use.

(Asthma Australia, 2021)

Giving nasal spray to children can be tricky. The following steps are a guide:

  • Reassure your child that this may feel a bit uncomfortable but it will not hurt.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • If your child is old enough, get them to gently blow their nose.
  • Gently block one of your child's nostril by pushing on that side of the nose.
  • Insert the spray nozzle into the other nostril, as far as is comfortable for your child.
  • Have your child tilt his head forwards slightly.
  • Press the plunger down so that it sprays the medicine up, into the nostril. 
  • If you have to use the spray in the other nostril, repeat the process in the other nostril.  
  • Your child may complain of an unusual taste in the mouth - offer them a drink of water. 

  • Sometimes the nose drops or spray leave an odd taste in your mouth. If this happens, have a drink to wash the taste away.
  • Nose drops or spray should not be used for longer than stated on the label. They can become dirty and infected. It is a good idea write the date you open the bottle on the label so you will know when to throw it away.

How to use nose drops properly(external link) Safe Medication, US
How to use nose drops(external link) Patient Info, UK
How to use nasal sprays properly(external link) Safe Medication, US
How to use nasal pump sprays properly(external link) Safe Medication, US

Resources

How to use nasal sprays properly(external link)(external link) Safe Medication, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, US
How to use nasal pump sprays properly(external link)(external link) Handout from Safe Medications, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, US
5 questions to ask about your medications(external link) Health Quality and Safety Commission, NZ, 2019 English(external link), te reo Māori(external link)

Brochures

nasal pump spray instructions

How to use nasal pump sprays properly(external link)

Handout from Safe Medications, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, US

Free helplines

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

Last reviewed:

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