Marburg, Germany (dpa) – People who reflexively reach for nasal spray when their nose is congested need to be aware that the medication can be habit-forming, a German doctor warns. “After two weeks (of continuous use), noticeable effects of habituation occur and some people then find it difficult or impossible to discontinue use,” said Dr Erika Baum, vice president of the German College of General Practitioners and Family Physicians, a non-profit medical society.
The problem is that regular use of nasal decongestants such as phenylephrine, which open up nasal passages by constricting blood vessels in the lining of the nose, can have a “rebound effect.” The nose may become less responsive to the medication, requiring more of it, or congestion may worsen without it.
What is more, “Long-term use leads to a feeling of dryness and damage to mucous membranes,” Baum warned. So how can one kick the nasal spray habit?
“It’s possible to quit ‘cold turkey’,” Baum said, “but gradual withdrawal is easier.” She suggested using nasal sprays meant for children or infants, which are diluted, and gradually increasing the intervals between uses.