Allergy Treatments

Your Guide to Saline Nasal Spray

Photo of bottles of Picnic saline nasal spray and oral antihistamine sitting on a shelf.

Anyone with allergies knows what it’s like to live with itchy, twitchy noses, watery eyes, sneezing, and any of the numerous other symptoms that are part of the deal. They can range from being a minor inconvenience to keeping you from living your best life. In short, it’s not fun!

If you’re feeling the effects of seasonal or year-round allergies, it might be time to add a saline nasal spray or rinse into your treatment rotation. However, before trying a nasal spray or rinse, or any other sort of nasal irrigation, it’s very important to understand what exactly they do, when to use them, and how to use them.

What does saline nasal spray do for allergy symptoms?

Saline nasal sprays attack allergy symptoms head-on by directly targeting the source. There are a handful of different kinds of nasal sprays, but they generally fall into these three categories:

Decongestant nasal spray

This over-the-counter (OTC) spray helps deflate the swollen blood vessels that cause stuffy noses and helps prevent congestion, itchy and/or runny nose, itchy watery eyes, and sneezing.

Antihistamine nasal spray

This spray, available with a prescription, helps relieve nasal allergy symptoms like congestion, itchy and/or runny nose, itchy watery eyes, itchy throat, post-nasal drip, and sneezing. Antihistamines are also especially effective if taken preventatively as opposed to only in response to your symptoms.

Steroid nasal spray

There are both OTC and prescription varieties of this spray, which helps reduce congestion, itchy and/or runny nose, itchy watery eyes, and sneezing.

If you regularly experience any of these symptoms, an allergy nasal spray could definitely help you!

How often should I use saline nasal spray?

If you’re wondering how often you can use saline nasal spray, there’s no single answer—one type of or brand of nasal spray shouldn’t necessarily be used as frequently as the next. Pay close attention to what your individual package instructions say, especially when you’re trying a new product. You might even find that you need to use a spray less frequently than directed.

That said, antihistamine and steroid nasal sprays can typically be used daily. Decongestant nasal sprays, meanwhile, shouldn’t be used for more than three days in a row; any more than that and your congestion could actually become worse. (Yes, nasal spray addiction is real.)

How do I use saline nasal spray effectively?

The thought of using a nasal spray might seem a bit intimidating, but we promise: It’s a quick and painless process! Every nasal spray will have its own specific set of directions you need to pay attention to, but the general gist is:

  1. Gently blow your nose before applying to clear out your nasal passages and prep them for the medication.
  2. Remove the cap and prime the bottle (if directed) by shaking it and spraying a few pumps into the air until a fine mist comes out.
  3. Press one nostril closed with your finger and place the tip of the nasal spray bottle in the other nostril.
  4. Aim the tip toward the back of your nose.
  5. Gently press or squeeze the bottle and inhale lightly with your mouth closed as many times as the bottle directs.

Repeat from step one in the other nostril. After replacing the bottle cap, make sure to wash your hands. You can keep a tissue handy to hold under your nostrils in case you experience some running, but don’t blow your nose for at least 10 minutes after inhalation to allow your body to absorb the medication.

And that’s how to use saline nasal spray. Like we said: Easy!

Imagine a world where your allergies are blown away.

Click below to see if saline spray is right for you!

What does using saline spray feel like?

We’re the first to admit that while using nasal spray is super simple, it isn’t necessarily the most pleasant feeling in the world. Fortunately, it’s also not the worst! Once you can get past your brain and body’s natural resistance to inhaling something up your nose, it doesn’t really feel like much of anything at all. Once you’ve inhaled the medicine, you might notice a bitter taste in the back of your throat, but that’s the worst of it—and a small price to pay if you’re able to keep your nose from running or getting stuffed up.

Okay, what next?

It could take up to three weeks of proper nasal spray use to see the full benefits, so if you don’t notice a change in your symptoms right away, don’t give up! Monitor your daily allergy symptoms so you know when exactly the effects kick in; you can even keep an allergy diary to keep track of how quickly the nasal spray starts to work.

If you’re looking to take the next step in alleviating your allergy symptoms, take the Picnic allergy quiz to find which of our products are right for you. Tell us about the symptoms and seasons that bother you most, along with a little about your experience, and we'll get you the personalized Allergy Pack and ongoing care you need to achieve peak relief.

While saline spray is often a great option for anyone looking for additional allergy relief, it usually won’t get the job done on its own. If you find that you’re still experiencing symptoms, you might want to add on an additional treatment. Everyone’s bodies are different, which means everyone’s allergy treatments routine will be different. It’s all about finding out exactly what works for you so you can breathe easy!

ARTICLE REVIEWED BYAmina H. Abdeldaim, MD MPHPicnic Medical Director
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