How to apply nasal sprays and how long to use them

If you're sneezing and sniffling this time of year, you're not alone.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans suffer more than one billion colds each year. If you can't breathe in through your nose, an over-the-counter nasal spray might help - but be careful how long you use it.

First, let's talk technique.

If nasal congestion is making you miserable, and you're trying a nasal spray, be sure it's positioned and used properly.

"You never want it to be directed right at the nasal septum, so that's that middle portion of your nose," says Angela Giallourakis, a pharmacist at Cleveland Clinic. "When you push a spray directly onto it, it can cause some damage on that tissue and you can end up with some irritation or a bloody nose. So, [make] sure it's pointed more towards the back so that you're actually able to inhale the product."

Blow your nose first and as you spray or pump the product, slightly inhale for best results. Most products can be applied in an upright position. Giallourakis doesn't recommend tilting your head.

Then try to avoid blowing your nose.

"You never want to share your product with someone else when referring to a nasal spray. It's important that you keep the lid on if it comes with one and also to monitor how clean it is. So, after use wiping it down," she says.

What's really important is to read the instructions and, in most cases, do not use nasal decongestants for more than 3-to 5 days in a row.

After a few days of using over the counter nasal decongestants, it can become less effective, triggering almost a feeling of addiction.

It's not a true addiction, but it can cause damage to the inside of your nose if you misuse or overuse the spray.

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