Overusing nasal sprays for decongestion could backfire with people developing rebound nasal congestion instead, an otolaryngologist has warned.
Many people are currently suffering allergies with the advent of spring and a raised pollen count.
Huang Hung-meng (黃弘孟), director of the otolaryngology department at Taipei City Hospital, said yesterday that a 57-year-old woman allergic to dust, dust mites and cold air, has been suffering from allergic rhinitis — an inflammation of the nose’s airways.
She bought a nasal spray over the counter that shrinks blood vessels in the nasal air passages.
The woman used the spray whenever she had a stuffy nose and kept the decongestant on hand for more than two weeks, Huang said.
The woman was later diagnosed with rebound nasal congestion, with the spray aggravating the stuffiness. She was administered with a low-dose steroid nasal spray to treat the symptons.
The director said the nasal spray works by shrinking blood vessels to clear a stuffy nose, but does not work so well on a runny nose.
Huang cautioned against its continuous use of more than 10 days.
Low-dose steroid nasal spray relieves the symptoms of nose inflammation, but it works more slowly and is shunned by many patients due to a common misconception that the steroid impacts other parts of the body, he said.
Huang, who suffers from allergic rhinitis himself, and has even undergone surgery as a result, said that antihistamines, decongestant pseudoephedrine and steroid nasal spray are the common drugs for the ailment, each with its own benefits and risks.
It is estimated that one in every four people is affected by allergic rhinitis in the country.
Surgery is also an option for those with nasal septum deviation or turbinate hypertrophy, which both cause nasal obstruction, he added.
Early spring brings with it pollens, molds and smog, and is the peak season for allergic rhinitis, the Taiwan Rhinology Society said yesterday.
The society has published a new version of a handbook for the public to better understand the disease and possible treatment.
Society secretary-general Tai Chih-jaan (戴志展), an otolaryngologist at the China Medical University Hospital, said oral antihistamines should be used before nasal sprays, and a balanced diet, regular exercise and avoiding allergens could also help keep the condition at bay.