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Nasal spray and washouts

Allergic Rhinitis is a common condition where there is swelling and inflammation in the lining of the nose. It is sometimes called hayfever, and the persistent form is sometimes called “sinus”.


Allergy (antihistamine) pills or syrup

Antihistamines are very good for treating the symptoms of itching, running and sneezing, but are less effective than nasal sprays on the blockage and have no effect on the underlying inflammation.

Nasal Sprays

Nose sprays containing an anti-inflammatory “corticosteroid” is the best treatment for all the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. They need to be used every day because they help with the underlying swelling and inflammation and take a few days before they work, so can’t really be used just occasionally for symptom relief. Using your nasal inhaler spray properly is important. With the right technique you can be sure that the medicine is getting where it needs to, and you can reduce the chance of having side-effects like nosebleeds.

How to use nasal sprays:
  1. Blow out your nose (or use nasal washout) before using your nose spray.
  2. Gently push the bottle tip into one nostril. Press on the other side of your nose with one finger to close off the other nostril.
  3. Keep your head upright. Aim the nozzle of your spray towards the back of your head and slightly outward (towards the same side as the nostril you are in, not the other one). This will aim the tip of the nozzle towards the ear on that side, and away from the fragile place between your two nostrils.
  4. While squeezing the bottle breathe in slightly so that the spray doesn’t drip out immediately. Do NOT breathe in so hard that you can taste it in your throat!
  5. Repeat in the other nostril.
  6. Hold the two nostrils together (so spray doesn’t drip out) and lean forward for 30 seconds. This allows time for the spray to spread through the nose but not to drip down the back of your throat.
  7. Try not to sniff the medication down the back of your throat or to blow your nose for 20 minutes after using the spray, just wipe it gently if necessary.
Common errors to avoid:
  • Skipping doses
  • Holding your head in the wrong position (should be straight or tilted forward, not back)
  • Pushing the nozzle too hard or far into your nose
  • Blowing your nose after spraying (the medicine is lost)
  • Sniffing hard after spraying (the medicine ends up in your throat instead of your nose)
  • Using saline sprays or irrigations after using the medicine, instead of before
Saline Sprays and washouts

Washing out all the allergens and snot from your nose is an excellent and natural way of treating hayfever. It is usually not effective just on its own, but may be an excellent help for the medication to work, especially if it is done before the nose spray is used, so the spray can reach the place where it works best.

How to do nasal washouts

Nasal irrigation is a good idea. It clears sticky mucous from your nasal passages and improves airflow in and out of your nose. Improved airflow will relieve the stuffy and blocked feeling. Mucous membranes in your nose are cleared from mucous and you can absorb your nasal spray better. This will decrease inflammation and relieve nasal swelling and production of snot. Nasal washouts can be done with special bottles that you can get at most pharmacies. These look a bit like a soft babies bottle with a nozzle attached that fits into your nose. It can also be done with a large syringe, but care needs to be taken to make sure the nozzle of the syringe doesn’t hurt the inside of the nose, and that you can make a seal with the top of the syringe against the nostril.

Instructions for use:
  1. Stand over the bathroom sink and tilt your head forward.
  2. Fill a special bottle or a 20ml syringe with your solution, insert the tip into one nostril and make a “seal” between the hub of the syringe and your nose.
  3. Aim towards the back of your head.
  4. Breathe through your mouth only (or pant in and out like a dog).
  5. Squeeze gently so water comes out slowly.
  6. The solution should go through your nostril and not leak out on that side…. It will come out the other nostril!
  7. Tilt your head from side to side to help drainage.
  8. Repeat until water runs out clear.
  9. Repeat into other nostril.
  10. Gently blow your nose once done.Use your nasal steroid spray after irrigation.
  11. Do irrigation up to 2 to 3 times per day.
  12. Avoid nasal irrigation if you have an acute sinus infection.
  13. You may experience burning the first few times you irrigate your nose.
  14. Gagging or ear pain means too vigorous irrigation.

Solution for nasal irrigation is available in little sachets from pharmacies that are then mixed with boiled cooled water. Alternatively a home made solution can be made.


  1. 1 cup boiled cooled-down water
  2. ½ teaspoon salt
  3. ¼ teaspoon baking soda

A medical specialist with a special interest and skill in allergy might be able to help. See the list of health professionals with skills in allergy on the AFSA website.

How to use Nasal spray (videos)

Watch our educational videos here>>>

How to do Nasal Washouts (videos)

Watch our educational videos here>>>

Download our “Nasal spray and washouts” leaflet for free