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Cold and Flu Center

Types of Prescription Nasal Sprays

author image Dominique Brooks
Dominique Brooks has been a medical editor for over 10 years. She has worked in medical education for physicians, nurses and pharmacists as well as consumers. She started writing business articles for in 2008 and health articles online in 2009. She holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama and a Doctor of Medicine from Vanderbilt University.
Types of Prescription Nasal Sprays
A woman applies a nasal spray to her nose. Photo Credit: opreaistock/iStock/Getty Images

Nasal sprays can deliver a variety of medications to the nose and sinuses to treat allergies, sinusitis, headaches and nasal dryness. Use of a nasal spray can direct the medication directly to the source of the problem and avoid some of the systemic side effects from medications. Some nasal sprays like nasal saline and many decongestants are available without a prescription, but other medications like corticosteroids, nasal antihistamines and nasal migraine sprays require a prescription.

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Nasal Steroid Sprays

One type of prescription nasal spray contains corticosteroid medications; these sprays can be used to treat nasal allergies. Corticosteroids treat allergies by stopping inflammation, according to These medications generally require regular use for about one week before reaching maximum effectiveness, according to the website. The newer versions of the corticosteroid sprays have less systemic absorption, which leads to fewer side effects. Side effects of corticosteroid nasal sprays include nosebleeds and nasal irritation. Examples of prescription corticosteroid nasal sprays include fluticasone, which may be sold as Flonase, ciclesonide or Omnaris and mometasone furoate monohydrate, which is sold as Nasonex. Some of these nasal sprays are available in generic formulations.

Antihistamine Nasal Sprays

Another prescription medication that may be used to treat allergic symptoms is the antihistamine nasal spray. Like oral antihistamines, nasal antihistamine sprays manage symptoms by blocking the release of the chemical histamine, which is important in allergic reactions. According to, these nasal sprays have some side effects like dizziness, drowsiness and a bitter taste in the mouth. Prescription antihistamine nasal sprays include azelastine, which is sold as Astelin or Astepro, and olopatadine or Patanase.

Anticholinergic Nasal Sprays

An anticholinergic medication, ipratropium or Atrovent, is also available in a prescription nasal spray. Atrovent is used to treat the runny nose associated with allergies and other conditions, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. According to Monthly Prescribing Reference, patients with certain conditions like narrow angle glaucoma or prostate disease should only use this medication with extreme caution because of the potential of worsening of the condition. Side effects of Atrovent include bloody nose, nasal dryness and irritation.

Migraine Medications

Migraine treatments are also available in prescription nasal spray form. Triptan medications such as sumatriptan and zolmitriptan and the ergot derivative dihydroergotamine can all be used to treat migraines and may be helpful to patients who have nausea symptoms and are unable to swallow a pill, according to the website. The side effects of triptan medications include dizziness and muscle weakness, according to The side effects of dihydroergotamine include nasal irritation, change in taste and dry mouth, according to the M.A.G.N.U.M. website.

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