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Overuse of nasal spray could increase congestion and damage sinuses

Fall is in the air and with it comes all those wonderful seasonal allergies like pet fur and plant pollen as well as an increased use of both over the counter and prescription strength nasal decongestant sprays. But are they really a help for the congestion of seasonal allergies or are they a likely cause of even more congestion?

An article posted September 2, 2011 on WebMD tells us how overusing a nasal decongestant could backfire on you and make you ill.

According to the article 50% of those who use a nasal decongestant spray for relief of watery eyes, itchy noses and nasal decongestion may actually end up creating a condition called rhinitis medicamentosa which can in turn cause not only damages to the nasal passages but even more and worsening congestion.

Rhinitis medicamentosa is most often seen in those who self medicate via a nasal decongestant spray but has also been found in people with viral upper repertory infections like colds. The condition occurs when a nasal decongestant spray is used repeatedly for more then 3 to 5 days consecutively which damages the nasal passages and decreases the effectiveness of the spray.

A paper posted in a journal called Clinical and Experimental Allergy states that the condition is under-diagnosed, and under-researched.

"Despite many prescription warnings and manufacturer labels listing certain medications as causing rhinitis, drug-induced rhinitis still often goes undiagnosed," the researchers wrote. Increased awareness, they said, could help these patients get the proper treatment.

These sprays provide quick relief, but they also wear off usually in 30 minutes or less," says Marilene B. Wang, MD, an otolaryngologist at UCLA. "The person will experience a rebound, where the nasal congestion is actually worse than before the spray was used."

"Many consumers turn to topical nasal sprays because they are safe and effective when used as directed," says Elizabeth A. Funderburk, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. "We know that people demand a range of options and different delivery forms work for different people. As with all OTC medicines, it is important that consumers always read and follow the label. The labeled directions state that you should not use topical nasal decongestants (nasal sprays or gels) for more than three days, because frequent or prolonged use may cause nasal congestion to recur or worsen."

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