What is the difference between the different kinds of over-the-counter nasal preparations?

The care of the nose and sinuses has become a huge industry.  There are numerous remedies for dry noses, allergies, sinus infections as well as any combination of the above.  Many of these remedies are over-the-counter, the rest need to be prescribed by a physician.

This article we focus on the over-the-counter nasal washes, mostly of them based on saline solution preparations.  Medical therapy of the nasal sinuses will be discussed in a different section.

Some of the nasal preparations are designed to get the nose wet, which is especially important in the winter months.  Some of these are called Ayr® , and Ocean® sprays.  Various pharmacies also have their own generic brands.  Typically, these come in small bottle with prefilled normal saline solution.  When feeling that the nose is dry or even on a preventive basis, a few applications of the spray can remedy the dry feeling.  This class of sprays has no medicines within them, and they could be used on an as needed basis.

Alternatively, there are also a class of nasal preparations that have various different emollients within them.  The idea here is that not only they get the nose wet, but actually provide chemical relief of the dry mucosal membranes.  These emollients can have more of a long-lasting effect.  These preparations include NasoGe®l, Rhinaris®, and Ponaris®, as well as others.  Some come in spray format, and others actually come in gelatinous material that could be applied to the inside of the nose with a Q-tip or other device.

Another category of nasal preparations is the nasal irrigation.  In contrast to the above two categories, nasal irrigations are meant to provide a tsunami-like effect to the inside of the nasal passages.  Ideally, a large volume of saline solution can flush the inside of the nasal passages and their sinuses in an effort to eliminate any dust, bacteria, or excess mucosal secretions without bothering our sinuses.  The nasal irrigation systems can be applied in what is called a neti pot, or a hand held squeeze bottle.  A newer technique is a battery-operated device that will send jets of saline through the nasal passages with pressing a button.  Some manufacturers already supply premixed saline solution, but some others give individual packets of salt to be dissolved in a predetermined amount of water to achieve proper salt concentration.

Many patients who suffer from chronic sinus disease should perform nasal irrigation on a daily basis, and I recommended that they increase the frequency to two or three times a day if they suspect that they are coming down with more acute symptoms.

None of the above remedies have any medicines within them, and could be used on an as needed basis.  However, oftentimes patients with chronic nose and sinus issues may also need medicated treatments.  A consultation with an ENT specialist or an allergist can better help you ascertain proper treatment.


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Posted in: Nose

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