Along with pointing you in the direction of your favorite meal or reminding you the neighbor's roses are blooming, your nose takes in about 20,000 liters of air each day. It also warms the air you breathe before it reaches your lungs and helps prevent airborne invaders such as pollen or germs from infiltrating your respiratory system. When your nasal passages dry out, the nose has difficulty doing its job. Using the right nasal spray can help get it back in shape.
Anatomy of the Nose
Ridges that are covered with mucous membranes, called nasal turbinates, lie along the sides of your nasal passages. The turbinates warm and moisturize the air passing by, and their sticky ridges help trap dust, dirt, viruses and other particles before they reach your lungs. Small hairs called cilia push the mucus secreted by the membranes, and its contents, to the back of the nose, where it eventually drains down the throat and into the stomach. Certain medications and environmental factors, such as the low humidity on an airplane, can dry and irritate the mucous membranes in your nose, causing discomfort, itching and even nosebleeds.
Types of Medicated Nasal Sprays
Medicated nasal sprays contain active ingredients intended to treat the common causes of nasal symptoms. Antihistamines work to prevent the nasal drainage, sneezing and stuffiness often associated with your body's immune defense against pollen and other allergens. Decongestants help decrease the swelling in the blood vessels in your nose that colds, allergies and other conditions often cause. Some nasal sprays combine both ingredients.
Saline Nasal Spray
Saline nasal spray, actually a sterile saltwater preparation, humidifies the mucous membranes in the nose. This helps clear crusting from the cilia so they can function normally. The spray also helps to rinse away dust, mold and other particles you inhale and lessens dryness that can lead to irritation and nosebleeds. To relieve dryness, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery notes, you can use nasal saline spray regularly and typically without fear of side effects.
Using saline nasal sprays daily, even when your nose does not feel dry, can help keep your nasal passages healthy, especially when you travel or if you spend a significant amount of time in air that is dry because of air-conditioning or heating systems. Using an over-the-counter bulb syringe or neti pot to rinse nasal passages, called nasal lavage, is another home remedy MayoClinic.com notes can help clear sinuses and keep nasal passages moist.
Over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays are designed for short-term relief of congestion. These products often provide significant relief quickly. However, using an over-the-counter nasal decongestant for more than three days can actually cause swelling and congestion. This medication-induced congestion will only clear after you've stopped the medication.