Allergies can be seasonal, but for most people they are year round problems. Apart from outdoor allergens such as pollen, and grass, indoor allergens can severely reduce the quality of life of many people. Pet dander, dust, mold and smoke can trigger serious allergic reactions. Unfortunately over the counter nasal sprays, while initially very effective, can cause a physical dependency.
Different Types of Nasal Sprays
Over the counter (meaning you can buy them without a prescription) nasal sprays like Afrin and others are intended for short term in frequent allergy relief. You could use these before going to a place where you know cigarette smoke might irritate your sinuses. You should not use these to combat the allergies you have from your new cat. Beware of over the counter nasal sprays that contain oxymetazoline, phenyleherine and xylometazoline. Prescription nasal sprays contain steroids and antihistamines and can safely be used for recurring allergies.
A physical dependency on over the counter nasal sprays is called rhinitis medicamentosa. Addiction to these nasal sprays happens because they are not meant to be used in the long term, but instead for infrequent sinus problems and definitely not for over three days. The more you use them, the more you need them. So if you initially use an over the counter nasal spray every 6 hours, you may find you soon need it ever four hours, then every two.
How It Works
Your sinuses become congested when the blood vessels inside your nose expand because of allergies or a cold. Nasal sprays constrict these blood vessels and therefore reduce congestion. After a day or two, your nose becomes more tolerant of the spray, and you find you need to use it more frequently to alleviate congestion. This isn't an addiction in the sense of a psychological craving, but rather a physical dependency.
Help! I'm Addicted to my Nasal Spray
You may need a prescription medication to wean yourself off your over the counter nasal spray. Nasal steroids do not cause a physical dependency and can be used to break your cycle. Consider getting a prescription for a nasal spray containing steroids or antihistamines from your doctor to avoid using over the counter sprays. Or if possible, resolve the situation that is causing your allergies in the first place.
Relieve Yourself of Allergies
Of course, the easiest way to relieve your allergies is to avoid whatever causes them. If cigarette smoke is the culprit, avoid places like restaurants and bars that allow smoking. If your pet causes your allergies, think about giving it to a new family, or bathe it more often and thoroughly clean your home frequently. If you still have allergies but are reluctant to take a regular prescription medication, think about taking a natural supplement.
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