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4 Common Mistakes People Make Before Taking A Nasal Spray

by Terry Wilson

Many medications, including both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription meds, are administered as a nasal spray. Although nasal sprays are common and easy to administer, many people make mistakes when taking a nasal spray. The next time you squirt a medication up your nose, make sure you aren't committing any of these four common errors people make when taking OTC or prescription nasal sprays.

Not Washing Your Hands

Before reaching for the spray, you should first wash your hands. If you're taking a nasal spray, you're likely sick. Washing your hands with soap will limit how much the germs causing your illness spread.

Even if you're taking a nasal spray to alleviate allergy symptoms, you should still wash your hands. You've probably been congested, coughing and sneezing, or else you wouldn't need a nasal spray. Germs can easily spread to your hands when you blow your nose and cover your mouth. They need to be washed away regardless of whether they're making you sick yourself.

Washing your hands is a routine activity, but you shouldn't rush through it. The CDC recommends spending at least 20 seconds scrubbing your hands -- and that doesn't include getting them wet, putting soap on them, rinsing them or drying them.

Not Blowing Your Nose

Before taking the nasal spray, it's important to get as much mucus out of your nostrils as possible. This might not make sense if you're taking a nasal spray to relieve congestion in your upper airway, but nasal sprays need to be able to reach deep inside your nose. If they can't because mucus is blocking their path, their effectiveness will be limited.

Blowing your nose is the easiest and fastest way to clear out your nostrils. If you're really congested, though, a few snorts might not fully clear each nostril. When blowing your nose isn't enough, you might try the following ideas to clear out your nose:

  • taking a warm shower and putting your head under the stream of water
  • filling a sink with hot water and breathing in the steam
  • sitting next to a humidifier for a little while

Not Priming the Nasal Spray

Some nasal sprays need to be primed. If the one you're taking does, it will say so in the directions. You can't just stick a nasal spray that requires priming up your nose and squirt. You first have to prime it.

Priming is just getting the spray started. The liquid in a spray bottle can settle to the bottom. Priming brings it back into the spray nozzle. Until the spray's primed, a little medication might squirt out. It won't be a full dose, though, because the nozzle isn't full of liquid to spray.

If your nasal spray requires priming, follow the directions on how to do so. Generally, you'll just need to squeeze the bottle a few times before putting it into your nose to administer the medication.

Not Cleaning Your Nasal Spray

Nasal spray bottle should be cleaned periodically, depending on what they're used for. If you're taking a nasal spray when you're sick, you should clean the bottle after you recover so that you don't get those same germs the next time you use the spray. If you're taking the spray for allergy symptoms, you're less likely to get sickening bacteria or viruses from using the spray bottle. You should still clean the bottle occasionally so that the spray nozzle doesn't get clogged with mucus, though.

Because spray bottles are designed differently, there's not one way to clean all nasal spray bottles. The directions included with your nasal spray should detail how to clean the bottle.

Nasal sprays are easy to administer, but they're more involved than just sticking a bottle up your nose and squirting. The next time you give yourself a nasal spray, avoid making these common mistakes. For more information, talk to your doctor or go to sites like this one.