Nasal steroid sprays are used to treat chronic sinusitis and allergies that affect breathing, such as hay fever. They can also be used to treat snoring and nasal polyps, as well as noncancerous growths in the nasal passages.
Nasal steroid sprays are considered safe for both short-term and long-term use in children and adults. However, they are not without side effects.
This article reviews the possible side effects of steroid nasal sprays—some of which overlap with the conditions you may be trying to treat—and why they occur. It also guides you when to discuss them with your healthcare provider.
What is a steroid nasal spray?
intranasal corticosteroids It is a man-made hormone produced naturally in the adrenal glands of the human body. These medications, called steroid nasal sprays, come in liquid form into the nostrils.
Steroid nasal sprays are used to treat sinus inflammation. These are the hollow spaces in your head that connect with the passages in your nose. When they are irritated, you can experience symptoms like nasal congestion, pressure, and headaches.
These drugs work by limiting the amount of allergens and other irritants that enter the moist lining of the sinus passages, called the mucous membranes. They help calm the body’s response to these irritants, reducing swelling and mucus.
Steroid nasal sprays are different from anabolic steroids, which are drugs that some people use to boost muscle building.
example of steroid nasal spray
Some forms of nasal steroid spray are only available with a prescription from your healthcare provider. Examples include:
- Beconase AQ (beclomethasone)
- Nasonex (mometasone)
- Omnaris, Zetonna (Ciclesonide)
Others are available over the counter (OTC) and include:
- Flonase (fluticasone)
- Nasacort (Triamcinolone)
- Rhinocort (budesonide)
Nasal steroid sprays are primarily used to treat congestion and symptoms caused by allergies and chronic sinusitis.
See what’s causing your sinus problems
local side effects
Topical side effects of steroid nasal sprays, or side effects limited to areas in and around the area of direct drug contact, are the most common.
You may not even realize your steroid nasal sprays can cause side effects, as many of them can mimic allergies and sinusitis. This is especially true if you’re just starting out with nasal steroid sprays for allergies.
Common steroid nasal spray side effects include:
Topical side effects of steroid nasal sprays tend to affect the opening of the nasal passages. More rarely, they can be higher in your nostrils.
These symptoms may appear immediately after you use the nasal spray or a few days later.
If you have bleeding and irritation in your nasal passages, it may increase your risk of more serious complications. These include breaks in the skin (ulcers) found between your nostrils or small holes in the septum (perforations).
Although they are less common, some side effects involve your eyes and sinuses. These can happen immediately or even days after use.
Such side effects include:
- big watery eyes
- runny or stuffy nose
Consult your healthcare provider if you experience these symptoms. They may recommend that you stop using the nasal steroid spray for a few days. They may also adjust your dose or change your treatment.
The most common side effects of steroid nasal sprays occur in and around the nostrils, as well as the surrounding area. They can range from dryness and itching to headaches and nosebleeds.
systemic side effects
The use of steroid nasal sprays can sometimes cause systemic side effects, although these are less common.
These side effects may be because these drugs can suppress your immune system, change your hormone levels, or increase your eye pressure.
Systemic side effects of steroid nasal sprays include:
- nausea or vomiting
- upper respiratory tract infection
- abnormal menstrual cycle
- cataract (clouding of the lens)
- glaucoma (nerve damage to the eye that can cause vision loss)
- systemic infection
There are relatively few systemic side effects due to the use of nasal steroid sprays. However, if you think you may have any problems, be sure to see a health care provider.
Nasal steroid sprays can cause systemic side effects and complications, such as eye disease and abnormal menstrual cycles. These are rare and usually occur after prolonged use.
Child Development and Behavior
Research suggests that nasal corticosteroids are safe in children, but there are some concerns about long-term use and its effects on children’s growth and behavior.
The use of nasal steroid sprays may have little effect on vertical growth in children. This concern increases when steroids are used over time.
A study completed in 2000 followed 90 children aged 6 to 9 for one year. They either received a spray of beclomethasone dipropionate (BDP) or a sham treatment (placebo) for their allergic symptoms.
The rate of height growth was slightly lower in the BDP spray group. After all other factors were excluded, this was due to the drug itself.
After only the first month, the differences started to show. However, the authors note that more research is needed and that small changes do not suggest an effect on overall growth or final height.
Later studies of nasal steroid sprays in children did not find any such changes in growth rate.
There has been some concern about hyperactivity, irritability or behavioral problems in children who regularly use nasal steroid sprays. However, studies have shown mixed results.
It’s best to be aware of this possibility and watch for any changes in children using nasal steroid sprays.
Long-term use of steroid nasal sprays may affect a child’s growth and behavior, so parents and doctors should be aware of these possibilities.
How technology affects your risk
Following the product directions and the directions provided by your healthcare provider can help you minimize the side effects of steroid nasal sprays.
The right technique is very important. A study in the Netherlands found that only 6% of participants actually completed all the steps given in the directions for the nasal spray, so it’s worth reviewing — even if you think you’ve done them.
Improper technique when using nasal sprays can increase the risk of nosebleeds or septal perforation, the researchers noted. This is especially true when you point the spray at the inside of your nose, as it can cause the tissue to thin with repeated use.
You can avoid these side effects by knowing the proper way to use your sprayer and applicator.
Basic steps include:
- Shake the bottle well before using the spray.
- Insert with the tip pointed towards the back/outside of the nose.
- Gently inhale the spray so it goes into your sinuses instead of your throat.
- Try not to blow your nose, sneeze, or otherwise force it.
You need to make sure you can breathe well before using it. If you cannot inhale the medicine through your nostrils, the medicine cannot reach the sinuses. You may also need to pump (prime) the bottle lightly before use, making sure it’s ready to spray so the medicine is delivered the way you expect it to.
How to Use Nasal Spray Properly
For some people, steroid nasal sprays may be carefully considered or not recommended at all because they are more prone to side effects than other medications.
If you have eye conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma, or have a family history of these conditions, nasal steroid sprays may make your eye problems worse.annual eye exam by an optometrist if you use them or ophthalmologist (ophthalmologist) recommended.
If you have any adrenal-related conditions, such as Addison’s disease, nasal steroid sprays may make them worse. This is more likely to happen if you’ve been using the spray regularly over a long period of time.
Using a steroid nasal spray incorrectly can cause side effects, so always follow the product directions. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions and the medicines you take so they can make sure one of these medicines is safe for you.
Nasal steroid sprays often relieve symptoms associated with allergies and chronic sinusitis. Your healthcare provider may give you a prescription. Other nasal steroid sprays are available over-the-counter.
If you’re new to using them, it’s important to know that they can cause side effects. In many cases, you will experience symptoms of these side effects in and around your nose. Systemic side effects, such as nausea or infection, may occur but occur less frequently.
It is important to know the correct technique when using nasal sprays. This will help ensure that your steroid nasal spray is both safe and effective when treating your symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Nasal Steroid Sprays Bad for You?
Generally speaking, no. They are considered safe and effective for treating allergic symptoms in adults and children. But they do have side effects that increase with long-term use. Certain health conditions put you at greater risk.
Can Nasal Steroid Sprays Hurt Your Nose?
Nasal steroid sprays can cause irritation, redness, and other symptoms in and around the nose. These effects increase with long-term use. Bleeding can mean a more serious problem, such as a hole in the lining of your nose that needs medical attention.
How long should you use nasal steroid spray?
It depends on the type of spray, the dosage, your age and how often you use it. Follow your healthcare provider’s advice. People who use nasal steroid sprays long-term may need regular checkups for any injuries or complications.