The Independent Pharmacy

The Best Nasal Sprays: Effective Treatment for Nasal Congestion

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 9 Apr 2024

It’s easy to suffer from nasal congestion, particularly due to seasonal allergies. Pollen in the air can prompt allergic rhinitis, leading to a runny nose, blocked nasal passages, and general nasal irritation. Hay fever is a blight during springtime in particular. But because nasal congestion isn’t typically considered a serious problem, many people simply suffer through it.

If your nasal passages tend to block up due to nasal allergies, though, you don’t need to accept it. Here at The Independent Pharmacy, we offer various strong and reliably-effective allergy relief treatments, and nasal sprays (applied to the nasal passage) are among the most convenient. But with numerous options to choose from, how can you know what to use?

The goal of this guide is to help you form an idea of which nasal spray might be right for you. Don’t worry if you’re still unsure after reading it, though: our free consultation process is all about ensuring that you get the best treatment, so our medical experts will consider your symptoms and point you towards the right nasal spray.

With that said, let’s start by covering the basics of nasal sprays, then get into a breakdown of the best nasal sprays on the market for providing fast symptom relief.

How should you choose a nasal spray?

Decongestant nasal sprays usually vary in two key ways. The first is strength: some nasal sprays are designed to treat mild allergy symptoms, while others are intended to address moderate or serious allergy symptoms. The former are largely over-the-counter (OTC) treatments, available without prescriptions, while the latter requires sign-off from pharmacists due to their potency.

The second difference concerns method of operation. Corticosteroid nasal sprays contain powerful anti-inflammatories, making them excellent at reducing nasal congestion. Antihistamine nasal sprays, however, tackle allergies more directly by blocking the influence of histamine, a substance your body produces to protect you from harm when an allergic reaction kicks off and your body’s defences go into overdrive.

Antihistamines and corticosteroids have distinct strengths and weaknesses, and interact differently with other forms of medication. If one type of nasal spray isn’t suited to you for whatever reason (it may be ineffective, or even prompt rebound nasal congestion), you may be able to rely on the other to resolve your symptoms.

If you need a prescription treatment (often the case for nasal steroid sprays in particular), our pharmacy team will help you get one that fits your nasal allergy symptoms. If you think an over-the-counter treatment might work for you, though, consider requesting a free online consultation regardless. It’s better to check before starting a course of treatment.

Our range of decongestant nasal sprays

To make things easier to understand, we’ll split our range roughly along the lines of the distinctions we just identified. Here are the nasal sprays to consider:

Antihistamine nasal sprays

These nasal sprays offer effective all-around treatment of allergy symptoms because they go to the root of the problem, so if you’re suffering from a variety of mild to moderate cold symptoms then antihistamine sprays may be the category for you.

Your first port of call here should be Rhinolast. Using the active ingredient of azelastine hydrochloride, this nasal spray is highly effective at stopping a runny nose, itching, sneezing, and other annoyances that tend to appear at certain times of the year. Since it’s one of our prescription nasal sprays, you do need to get a consultation before proceeding.

Rhinolast Nasal Spray
Rhinolast Nasal Spray
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If Rhinolast isn’t sufficient to deal with your nasal allergy symptoms, you could try Dymista instead. Dymista is a double-action spray that contains the same antihistamine as Rhinolast (azelastine hydrochloride) but pairs it with fluticasone propionate, a corticosteroid. This combination makes it great for dealing with severe symptoms, though its strength means you need to use it very carefully.

Dymista Nasal Spray
Dymista Nasal Spray
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Steroid nasal sprays

Most of the nasal sprays we stock (and all of our OTC nasal sprays) use intranasal corticosteroids to provide symptom relief. Owing to the nature of its active ingredient, a steroid nasal spray is particularly good at treating inflammation, but less good at treating the other symptoms that can stem from seasonal allergies. If congestion and swelling are your main problems, your best bet may be to focus on resolving those as quickly as possible.

Prescription nasal sprays

A prescription nasal spray featuring a corticosteroid is one of the strongest treatments you can use for nasal congestion. Our steroid nasal sprays vary in their active ingredients, ensuring that you have different routes available. Let’s look at the options in our medically-reviewed range.

First up is Avamys, a nasal spray that features fluticasone furoate (derived from cortisol) as its active ingredient. This treatment is reliably found to be highly effective. Indeed, it’s the best-rated option we stock, with studies showing that sufferers find it more impactful and comfortable than other nasal sprays using intranasal corticosteroids.

Another option is Flixonase, a similar nasal spray that features the active ingredient of fluticasone propionate. It sounds similar to the fluticasone furoate of Avamys, but it’s actually completely distinct, which is a good thing because you can try one if the other doesn’t work well for you. Avamys tends to be preferred, but Flixonase is a tried-and-tested option.

We also stock Nasonex, a nasal spray that uses mometasone furoate as its active ingredient. Avamys once again holds an edge in user reviews, but Nasonex is still an effective nasal decongestant. In short, any of our prescription steroid decongestant sprays can work well. Try one and see how you fare.

Over-the-counter nasal sprays

Not all nasal steroids require prescriptions. An OTC nasal spray is likely to be less effective due to its relative lack of potency, but it’s still a capable allergy medication (particularly if you’re only suffering from very mild symptoms such as watery eyes, throat irritation, or mild nasal burning).

Our available over-the-counter treatments are comparably strong medically-reviewed options featuring low concentrations of corticosteroids, so any of them can prove effective. Try one of the following treatments:

  • Beclometasone uses the active ingredient of beclometasone dipropionate.
  • Benacort uses the active ingredient of budesonide.
  • Pirinase uses the active ingredient of fluticasone propionate.

Because fluticasone propionate is used in higher concentrations for prescription-level treatments such as the aforementioned Flixonase, you may be drawn towards Pirinase, but beclometasone dipropionate and budesonide are perfectly capable corticosteroids that are also used to treat issues including asthma and psoriasis. Any of these sprays should work well.

Alternatives to these nasal sprays

If you’d rather not treat your rhinitis with a corticosteroid or antihistamine nasal spray, there are alternatives. First, consider the option of using a saline nasal spray instead. Saline nasal sprays are very simple, serving only to moisturise the nasal passages and clear away pollen. If you’re encountering only very mild symptoms and are mostly bothered by nasal dryness, this route makes a lot of sense: saline sprays are highly safe, and in an average scenario the consistent use of such a nasal spray prevents further symptoms from appearing (or at least slows them).

If you’d prefer to stay away from sprays altogether (whether because you don’t like the feeling or because you want to avoid rebound congestion), you can consider oral allergy medications. Allergy pills such as Telfast or Xyzal contain antihistamines and can provide allergy relief without having to suffer the discomfort of using a nasal spray. Oral antihistamines should generally be taken daily, either to address symptoms or to prevent them from appearing.

Overall, though, choosing from nasal sprays (particularly those using intranasal corticosteroids) is our recommended route for achieving complete relief when you’re suffering from a seasonal nasal blockage. If you’re unsure what to go with, let us know. We’ll arrange a free consultation so our medical experts can point you in the right direction.

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