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Interested in Over-the-Counter Nasal Allergy Sprays? Read these 10 common questions first…

allergy patient questionnaire

The 10 Most Common Questions About Over-the-Counter Allergy Nasal Sprays.

If you’ve ever wished for the convenience of picking up your prescription nasal steroid spray from your pharmacy without a doctor’s script you are now able to do so. Recently, the FDA approved the nasal steroid, triamcinolone (Nasacort), for over the counter use. The goal of this measure is to help the estimated 50 million-plus Americans who suffer with allergies every year.

While this may make life a bit simpler for allergy sufferers, consumers should still become informed before deciding if over-the-counter nasal allergy sprays are right for them. Although the sprays may be more easily obtained, they may not be a safe option for everyone. It’s still prudent to get an allergist’s advice before trying any new medication, especially those that previously required a prescription and doctor visit before using.

Caution Needed Before Choosing a Nasal Allergy Spray

As with all medications, it is essential to make sure that you are treating the correct condition. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can mimic other conditions such as sinus infections, viral infections, nasal polyps or in rare cases cancer of the nasal cavities.  It is possible that a consumer may be treating the wrong problem and a more serious condition can go unnoticed. For this reason, we recommend always getting a professional opinion before trying any new medicine.

To help you learn more about whether Nasacort or another nasal steroid may be an option for treatment of your allergies, Dr. DeMarco has put together a list of the ten most frequently asked questions about the new nasal spray:

  1. How is this different than other over-the-counter medications? Triamcinolone is a nasal steroid. It works by suppressing the inflammation that causes the symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hayfever) including nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose and itching of the nose. This is just one class of medications that can be used to treat allergic rhinitis.  There are numerous other medications that are sold in the same aisle. They all work differently and have different precautions and side effects.  Each patient is unique and there is no “one-medication that fits all”.  Consumers are encouraged to seek the advice of an allergy specialist to develop a treatment plan and help guide them in the selection of an appropriate therapy.
  2. How safe is it? The new over-the-counter availability means that for most allergy sufferers triamcinolone nasal spray will be safe when used appropriately.  However, as with other medications, they should be used with caution.
  3. Will I become addicted to this nasal spray? Unlike some other classes of nasal sprays, nasal steroids have not been shown to be habit forming. Care must be taken in the selection of the appropriate nasal spray.
  4. Will it cause my nose to burn and bleed? Nose bleeding is a common side effect of nasal steroids and these may be severe.  This side effect may be minimized by the proper administration of the nasal spray. If you experience nose bleeds after using the spray, stop using and contact our office (or your allergist).
  5.  Are nasal sprays safe for children? Triamcinolone nasal spray is approved for children ages two and up for allergic rhinitis or other sinus conditions. While the risk for growth restriction is rare for nasal steroids if used appropriately, it is a well-known risk of steroids. Height and weight should always be monitored.
  6. What other side effects can nasal steroids cause? Infection, risk of cataracts or glaucoma, and adrenal suppression are other potential side effects. A rare complication is a perforation (hole) in the nasal septum (bone separating nostrils).  Regular nasal examinations should be performed as a precaution.
  7. Will I be able to stop using my antihistamines? If using the nasal spray by itself helps your symptoms, then you may not need to use an antihistamine. Every patient is different, and every person reacts differently to medications, so ultimately you will have to decide if you feel better using only the spray. We recommend contacting your allergist if you find that you are not getting relief from the medications.
  8. Do I need to use this medication every day? Yes. This medication is used to control ongoing inflammation and works best when used daily. It may also take several days for the medication to begin working and may require several weeks of daily use to achieve maximal benefit from the medication.
  9. Are nasal sprays covered by insurance? OTC medicines are typically not covered by insurance companies. You should contact your insurance provider to determine if it will continue to reimburse you for purchasing the medications now that they are no longer prescription-based.
  10. Do I still need to see an allergist? Allergy medications are simply designed to help you manage symptoms but they are not a cure for allergies. In addition, allergies and allergic reactions are known to change over time. Your allergies can also cause chronic sinus issues and may predispose you to asthma. Allergies and asthma symptoms may be serious conditions. Without proper care and diagnosis, you can find yourself in a potentially life-threatening situation. For these reasons, it is important to make sure you or your loved ones are under the care of a board certified allergist. This will ensure you receive proper care, testing, diagnosis, treatments and guidance that do much more than any OTC medication can provide.

If you have other questions that aren’t answered here, please contact the offices of Allergy and Asthma Specialists of North Florida at 904-730-4870 with your questions or to schedule a consult.  We look forward to helping you live a “breathe easy” lifestyle.