When you are held up in your bedroom with a terrible cold and you are coughing and sneezing all day, you usually just want to sleep, right? Of course, as soon as you put your head to your pillow, you realize that you can barely breathe. Your nose is blocked and you have to keep your mouth open in order to get oxygen. Your nose drips and you keep blowing it. Nothing seems to help.
So, you turn to that bottle of nasal spray. Ahh. . . relief. The satisfaction from your pharmacy spray is so great that you turn to the bottle constantly for the next few days. Finally, your cough, your sneezing, and aching all start to clear up. Strangely, your nose stays congested, though. Of course, the answer is inside that bottle. Soon, you find yourself needing that nasal spray every day. This almost seems like an addiction!
Technically, since the ingredients aren’t harming your body, and you don’t experience “withdrawal” from the drug, it can’t be considered a true addiction. In fact, what’s actually happening is that you’ve become tolerant to the effects of the spray. This can be very annoying. When you have a cold, your nasal passages swell up. By constricting the swelling of blood vessels, nasal sprays reduce this inflammation so you can breathe easier.
The problem is that your body adjusts to this constriction in your nasal passages. When you stop receiving the drug, your body overcompensates by dilating the blood vessels beyond their normal levels. This results in rebound congestion that is unrelated to the actual cold.
Some people start taking decongestants for a cold and never stop, but it is annoying — and expensive — to carry a bottle of nasal spray around and use it every day. In order to avoid developing a tolerance to nasal sprays don’t use them more than three days in a row. Make sure you blow your nose and flush your nasal passages with salt water regularly and only use the drug when it is absolutely necessary.
In order to get over a tolerance to nasal spray it may take a few days or weeks. You’ll suffer a blocked nose, but you can help it by taking oral tablets for congestion and by using steroidal or saline sprays. These are also good options when you are suffering from a cold. Just remember that moderation is always the key with any treatment option.