10 Best Nasal Sprays Reviewed

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When running, there are many barriers to getting the best time and the best performance. One of the most pesky of these can be a blocked nose, whether through allergies, an illness or just being run down. If you’re looking to treat your nose and clear your sinuses, it can be a good idea to carry a nasal spray.  If you go for a top-quality one, it’ll get you unblocked and breathing freely, ensuring better performance and greater comfort. In this article, we take a look at the best nasal sprays on the market, considering some which fight allergies, some which fight colds and flus, and some which do both. These aren’t typically designed specifically for runners, but they’ll all do exactly what you need, and offer a great addition to your running toolkit.

Whether keeping your running schedule through seasonal allergies, or fighting through a cold, these products can help you get down the road. The important thing is to find the best one for you, as well as making sure it is even suitable to use for your specific situation. Using simple saline sprays, or even more medicated formulas can be a big help when it come to maintaining open airways throughout your run, allowing a longer, more pleasant run while fighting with the challenges caused by congestion, head cold, or just those pesky allergic reactions.

Take a look ate our list of the top picks, then scroll down a bit more for some additional helpful information. Our hope is that our guide will give you the most complete information needed to find exactly what you are looking for, making your runs during allergy season much easier to get through.

Last Updated: April 7, 2017

Updated with researched information and newly added frequently asked questions to assist in helping make a more informed decision.

Mucinex Sinus-Max
  • Mucinex Sinus-Max
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Promotes Nasal + Sinus Drainage
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Nasalcrom Nasal Spray
  • Nasalcrom Nasal Spray
  • 4.9 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Relieves Nasal Allergy Symptoms
  • Price: See Here
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Ocean Saline Nasal Spray
  • Ocean Saline Nasal Spray
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Relieve Congestion by Thinning Mucus
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Our Top Nasal Sprays For Runners

 

Mucinex Sinus-Max Decongestant

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This one is arguably the best on the market. It's popular and effective. The effective ingredient is 0.05% of oxymetazoline hydrochloride and it comes in a 0.75oz bottle. It’s a powerful formula and it should do everything you need if you're congested.
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Effectiveness
This provides powerful and quick relief from sinus pressure and nasal congestion, and gets to work way quicker than most other nasal sprays. It moves excess mucus really effectively and has a 12-hour formula. In practice, it probably only lasts about 10 hours, but that is a lot longer than other similar sprays you’ll find on the market. This really does work incredibly well and insanely quickly, which is exactly what you need pre-run and mid-run.

Ingredients
This has menthol and eucalyptus along with the oxymetazoline hydrochloride. A small amount of users find the menthol to be a little too strong, but they are definitely in the minority.

Cost
It's about an average price for this list.
Pros
  • Works really quickly
  • Lasts a very long time
  • Decongests and reduces pressure
  • Only requires one treatment to fully work
Cons
  • The menthol sensation is a little too strong for some.

Nasal Crom

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The active ingredient here is 5.2mg of cromolyn sodium and it comes in a 0.88oz bottle. It’s non-drowsy, prescription strength and is another top choice on the market. It relieves all nasal congestion and stuffiness and does so effectively.
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Effectiveness
This does a decent job of preventing allergic symptoms and nasal blockages, but excels in curing them. It doesn’t work as quickly as some other options, which isn’t great for on-the-run effectiveness, but it’s great over a long term, which is especially good if you have allergies. Where this really excels is building up long-term defences, so if that’s what you’re seeking, this is perhaps the best option for you. It’s best to spray this pre-run, not mid-run.

Ingredients
This includes benzalkonium chloride, which can cause long-term nasal damage in some users when used over a long period of time. Aside from this, the cromolyn sodium is a great ingredient and really effective.

Cost
It's a little pricey, but it's absolutely worth it.
Pros
  • Very good long-term effects with prevention in addition to cure
  • If your focus is allergy prevention, this is great.
Cons
  • Won’t really do the job mid-run
  • The benzalkonium chloride ingredient can, for some people, be damaging long-term.

Zicam Intense Sinus Relief

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This comes in a 0.5oz bottle and the active ingredient is 0.05% of oxymetazoline hydrochloride. It’s great for use mid-run and can last up to 12 hours from one administration. It’s really strong and reduces pressure and congestion particularly well.
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Effectiveness
This is non-drowsy and really does get to work very quickly. For a mid-run blast, this is a fantastic option and won’t interfere with your runs. It’s also non-trickle, so it won’t run down your throat and irritate you while you’re running. The scent is pretty good. It burns a little upon use, but it’s nothing too uncomfortable.

Ingredients
In addition to the active ingredient, it contains menthol and eucalyptus for a nice scent and a refreshing hit of coolness. It’s just the right amount for a run – cooling without too much intensity, so it won’t catch your breath.

Cost
It's another average offering, thought the bottle is smaller than most.
Pros
  • Great for mid-run 
  • Works quickly and effectively
  • Refreshing with cooling ingredients
  • Doesn’t trickle down the throat
Cons
  • A little smaller than some other options
  • Burns a little for some users, but only a tiny amount
  • Given the size, a little pricier than some options, but it’s absolutely worth it

Vicks Sinex Moisturizing Decongestant

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This one is 0.5oz and the active ingredient is 0.05% of oxymetazoline hydrochloride. The ultra-fine mist means a more comfortable spray, and ensures that it gets to work quickly and effectively. It’s a slightly less well-known option but that doesn’t take away from its quality. It's also moisturising, which is great in cold weather.
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Effectiveness
It’s another great option for a mid-run blast, and relieves all symptoms associated with blockages, colds, flus and allergies. It gets your breathing back to normal really quickly and does a decent job of reducing pressure. It doesn’t have the smell that you might associate with a Vicks product, but that could be good or bad depending on your preferences.

Ingredients
In addition to the active ingredient, you have aloe to provide a little bit of coolness. This coolness is complemented well by the fine spray.

Cost
This is a pretty good bargain option.
Pros
  • The fine spray is good for delicate noses.
  • Decent smell
  • Gets to work pretty quickly
  • You can feel your breathing improve well with this.
  • A little cheaper than some other options
  • Moisturizing
Cons
  • Not as popular (and therefore not as well-proven) as some other options. If you’re seeking guaranteed quality, maybe you might want to look elsewhere.

Xlear Xylitol Sinus Care

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If you’re looking for something all-natural, this is perhaps your best option. The xylitol is natural and provides a good experience, with unblocking, pressure-reduction and good relief. It’s best for long-term use rather than for a quick mid-run spray, but its effects long-term are great. This comes in a relatively-big 1.5oz bottle.
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Effectiveness
Again, for a short relief, this isn’t great, but if you’re looking for a long-term solution to stuffiness and blockages or allergies, this does it really well. Over time, you’ll notice a massive difference. The sprayer is a little big for some, but it otherwise seems to work well for most users. The taste is sweet rather than chemical, which makes a big change from most other options on the market.

Ingredients
The major draw here is the all-natural approach. If you’re tired of medicating yourself with drugs, this might be the best option for you! The non-chemical approach also gives a good flavor and smell. This also contains purified water and grapefruit seed for cooling relief.

Cost
Given the size of the bottle, this is a good bargain option!
Pros
  • Good price
  • Great natural approach
  • Excellent over the long-term
  • Nice sweet taste and smell
Cons
  • Isn’t great for a quick blast

Rhinocort Allergy

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The active ingredient here is 32mcg of budesonide. It comes is a 0.285oz bottle and is great at providing temporary relief, so it’s another option for a quick blast on the go for fighting allergies.
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Effectiveness
One spray of this can work up to a mega 24 hours, which is fantastic. Of course, it won’t always last this long, but it does a decent job in attempting it. It works immediately and you can feel the relief right after a spray. Strangely, the active ingredient seems to not work at all for a small amount of users, but these people are in the minority.

Ingredients
Budesonide is not a popular of an ingredient as some other more common active ingredients, so if you’ve never used it, give it a go. It’s perhaps slightly less reliable than something like oxymetazoline hydrochloride, but it works really well for some users.

Price
It’s quite expensive given the size of the bottle, but if it works for you, then it’s absolutely worth the price!
Pros
  • Gets to work quickly
  • Budesonide is a slightly rarer ingredient, so you mightn’t have tried it before.
  • Good for a spray on the go
  • Can work for up to 24 hours
Cons
  • A little expensive
  • Some users find that this doesn’t work at all, but as always, some active ingredients work for some users better than others.
  • Smaller bottle than most other options

Afrin Decongestant

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Another option for a mid-run spray, this works within seconds and contains the active ingredient oxymetazoline hydrochloride. This comes in a 1oz bottle, it’s a trusted name and lasts up to 12 hours. It really excels in reducing inflammation and discomfort.
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Effectiveness
This perhaps works best as an immediate remedy to allergies, so if you’re looking for something to reduce the effects of allergy quickly, this is absolutely one of the best options. It’s great for reducing pressure and swelling and will eliminate decongestion quickly. However, lots of users have experienced allergic reactions to this, so although it works very well, you should absolutely check the ingredients list before you proceed to buy it.

Ingredients
The active ingredient works just fine, but do check properly before buying since other users have experienced bad reactions to this.

Cost
For the size, the price here is great. A nice bargain option!
Pros
  • Good price
  • Well-known brand
  • Works very quickly
  • Best if you’re looking to relieve allergy symptoms
  • Works for up to 12 hours
Cons
  • Many users have experienced bad reactions to this.

ClearLife Allergy Relief

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Another one which is made for allergies rather than colds and flus, and another natural option! This is quite unique in that it has loads of active ingredients, most of which are natural, and all of which give good relief against allergies. This comes in a 0.68oz bottle.
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Effectiveness
This clears the sinuses in seconds and also offers long-term effectiveness and relief when used over a decent period of time. Because of the natural ingredients, the effect isn’t as strong as some others on this list, but it’s still a great option if you’re looking to use something which isn’t exclusively drug-based.

Ingredients
Where this is unique is that it has loads of active ingredients rather than the one or two which you normally find. These ingredients include alium cepa and galphimia glauca, but you can check the bottle for a full run-down. The ingredients here might cause an adverse effect if you have asthma, so if this is the case for you, have a check before you proceed.

Cost
The price point here is pretty good!
Pros
  • Decent price
  • Works quickly
  • Good for allergy relief
  • Many active ingredients
  • If you’re looking for something natural, this might work for you.
Cons
  • Doesn’t work for colds and flus
  • Not as effective as some non-natural options
  • May cause bad side effects if you have asthma

Zicam Cold Remedy

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This one works mainly for symptoms of colds and flus, so if you have a bunged-up illness and you want some fast-acting relief, this is a good option. This provides short-term and long-term relief, comes in a 0.5oz bottle and contains three active ingredients.
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Effectiveness
This is quite unique in that it can do three things: prevent colds, provide immediate relief and provide long-term relief. So it’s handy for during a run, before a run and preventing any nasty colds before a big race. It relieves well overall, though some users don’t seem to benefit from it in a small amount of cases. Just to be clear, this is only for relief of colds and flus, not for allergy relief.

Ingredients
The three active ingredients here are galphimia glauca, luffa operculata and sabadilla. You also have menthol and eucalyptus here to give you a nice cooling sensation, which helps both immediately and over time.

Cost
About what you’d expect – not expensive, not cheap.
Pros
  • Great at fighting and preventing colds
  • Works quickly
  • Three active ingredients
  • Nice cooling feeling from the menthol and eucalyptus
Cons
  • Won’t provide allergy relief
  • Not as proven and reliable as some other options on this list

Ocean Saline

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The last one on this list is saline-based and is good for moisturising your nose, which might be helpful if you’ve been congested for a while or if you’re in cold conditions. The active ingredient here is sodium chloride and this comes in a 3.5oz bottle. It’s not as intense as the rest of this list, but if you’re looking for something mild and low-cost, this is perhaps the best choice.
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Effectiveness
This works well long-term and provides a decent amount of relief short-term. It’s also great in cold conditions and if you’re looking for something moisturising. This sits on the list as an option for something mild and long-term, not as something which is going to quickly blast away a huge blockage.

Ingredients
It’s mainly saline-based, which might appeal to some. There are otherwise very few extra ingredients, so it’s a pretty natural affair!

Cost
Given the size of the bottle, this is absolutely the cheapest on the least.
Pros
  • Saline-based
  • A good long-term option
  • Good if you’re seeking something mild
  • Low-cost
  • A big bottle
Cons
  • If you want intensity, you won’t find it here.
  • Doesn’t work against allergies or big colds and flus
  • Better for long-term than short-term

So for cold relief, flu relief, allergy relief or just a long-term sinus-issue solution, there’ll be something here for you! Unblock, feel fresh and improve your performance!


The Criteria We Used For Our Evaluation of the Best Nasal Sprays

Seasonal and other allergies can really stuff you up, and unfortunately, can make you feel less than thrilled to go out for a run. This is understandable, considering being able to breathe is just slightly important to running. Luckily, over-the-counter nasal sprays can offer some relief from the symptoms caused by allergies and get you back on the track, trail, or road in no time. With that in mind, there are a variety of factors that need to be considered before you choose the best product to help resolve your allergy or stuffiness issues.

There is a set of metrics we applied when choosing the nasal sprays that made our list. The metrics we used are based on product research and reviews about the nasal sprays that are available on the market, as well as questions that are commonly asked about this type over-the-counter remedy. Each of the key factors in creating our list of the best nasal sprays is explained below.

What are the effective ingredients in this nasal spray?

There are three types of over-the-counter nasal sprays.

One is focused on preventing inflammation caused by – you guessed it- inflammatory substances. To fight inflammation, these sprays contain the ingredient cromolyn sodium. When a spray with cromolyn sodium is taken before being exposed to allergens like dust, pollen and pets, symptoms like congestion can be prevented. This type of spray has also been shown to prevent asthma attacks.

Decongestant sprays have different non-prescription ingredients to treat congestion. These are used once you are already stuffed up and experiencing difficulty breathing normally. These are helpful in the short term, and are not recommended as a long-term treatment for allergies.

Saline nasal sprays are a simple salt water solution that are used to help clear mucus out of the nose and sinuses as needed. They also help keep the blood vessels in your nose moist, prevening dryness that can lead to nosebleeds and irritation.

How long does this nasal spray take to work?

Like any other medical treatment, nasal sprays take time to “kick in.” How much time that takes depends on the effective ingredients in the spray you choose.

Cromolyn sodium is a mast cell stabilizer, which means it stops mast cells from releasing histamine and other anti-inflammatory body chemicals. Cromolyn sodium should be inhaled at least 10-15 minutes prior to exposure to an allergen or an asthma-inducing incident. However, it could be several weeks before you see vast improvements in your congestion.

Nasal decongestant sprays with active ingredients such as phenylephrine and oxymetazoline can begin providing relief from your congestion in as little as 10 minutes. However, it is only recommended that decongestant nasal sprays be used for 2 – 3 days, or else you risk increasing your stuffiness, rather than clearing up your symptoms.

Saline nasal sprays can provide immediate relief from mucus and dryness.

How will this nasal spray treat allergies or other symptoms?

A nasal spray gets medicine into your system through inhalation. If your nasal spray has cromolyn sodium as its effective ingredient, this medicine will prevent mast cells from releasing histamine, which in turn prevents your symptoms from appearing. If you nasal spray has another decongestant as its main ingredient, it shrinks the blood vessels, which provides congestion relief.  A saline spray reduces the thickness of the mucus in your nose and sinuses, allowing it to drain.

How long will this nasal spray keep symptoms at bay?

Like the effectiveness time, the longevity of the effects of a nasal spray depends on the type you are using.

Cromolyn sodium-based nasal sprays are better suited for therapeutic use on a regular basis to keep allergies and asthma at bay. So, they will fight your symptoms as long as you are using the medicine consistently.

A decongestant nasal spray, like those that contain phenylephrine and oxymetazoline, can keep stop your symptoms for up to 12 hours. However, you should only depend on decongestant nasal sprays for 2 or 3 days, or the opposite effect will happen – you will actually become even more stuffed up!

The effects of a saline spray are immediate and temporary. That’s OK, though, because you can use them as needed to clear mucus out of your nose and sinuses.


Other Important Factors to Consider When Selecting the Best Nasal Spray

There are other details that you should consider when selecting a nasal spray keep allergy symptoms at bay and keep you up and running (literally!).  You should choose a nasal spray that addresses the symptoms you exhibit and what is causing those symptoms.

To help make this decision a little easier, below are some extra features you should consider when shopping for a nasal spray:

  • Allergic Reactions

Some nasal sprays contain inactive ingredients or preservatives. Pharmceutical companies and doctors warn that some people are allergic to these inactive ingredients. Be sure to read the label of any nasal spray you might purchase thoroughly to be sure that you won’t have an allergic reaction upon use.

  • Repetition of Symptoms

If nasal and sinus congestion are a new or infrequent symptom for you, a nasal spray might be the right solution to battle and improve your symptoms. It is inexpensive, simple to use, available at any pharmacy or grocery store, and is temporary.

However, if you have been experiencing chronic congestion, meaning it just doesn’t seem to disappear or it returns immediately after clearing up, seeing your physician or an ear, nose, and throat specialist may be a better option for you. Long-term congestion can be signs of more serious condition or infection.


FAQ

In order to further assist in finding the best and most suitable products for your use when it comes to helping with better running, we have done our research and come up with some commonly asked questions which pertain to purchasing and using nasal sprays.

Our hope is that these frequently asked questions will help spark questions of your own, as well as answer some of the question you might have in common with many other customers.

Q: How do I know if I should use a nasal spray?

A: Studies show that most people can tolerate the use of a nasal spray to treat congestion related to allergies, illness, or weather (i.e. dry air). Additional research suggests that allergy sufferers that take a daily oral allergy medicine may be able to use only a nasal spray to treat their symptoms, rather than a pill.

However, any person that has any damage inflicted upon their nasal passages, including injuries related to a broken nose or having blood vessels cauterizes, should avoid using nasal sprays. Their use could actually cause more harm than good.

 

Q: How do I use a nasal spray?

A: Although it seems that using a nasal spray is as easy as putting a tiny tube up your nose and giving it a squeeze, it isn’t quite that simple. There is actually a correct way to use a nasal spray. The steps in this process are as follows:

  1. Clear your nasal passages and sinuses as much as you can by blowing your nose.
  2. If required, shake the bottle of spray, or prime if necessary.
  3. Block one of your nostrils by gently pressing your finger against it, pressing it into the septum or inner bridge of your nose.
  4. Place the tip of the spray bottle just inside the other nostril.
  5. As you inhale slowly, squeeze the bottle to release the spray into your nostril for inhalation.
    • Read the directions of your bottle for the proper squeezing technique. Some nasal spray bottle are side squeeze, while other have a bottom pump that is used with the thumb.
  6. Repeat with other nostril.
  7. Do not blow your nose or sneeze immediately after using spray.
  8. Repeat use according to directions.

 

Q: Can I become addicted to nasal sprays?

A: Contrary to popular belief, you cannot become addicted to nasal sprays, nor does it lead to the use of illegal drugs that are inhaled through the nostrils.

However, overuse of nasal sprays can cause something called the rebound effect. This is when you use a spray so frequently that you build up a tolerance to its effective ingredients, and as a result, your congestion returns, sometimes, even worse than it was in the first place. This leads to needing to use the medicine more, changing to a stronger medicine, or stopping use of the medicine for a few weeks to reverse the rebound effect.  

So, to keep yourself running, be sure to follow the directions on the bottle or given to you by a pharmacist, and only use the spray when you really need to. This will help you avoid constant congestion.

 

Q: What are the side effects of using nasal sprays?

A: Nasal sprays can present different side effects based on their effective ingredients.

A nasal spray that contains cromolyn sodium can cause side effects including sneezing, coughing, and a burning or stinging sensation in the nose.

Using a decongestant nasal spray may cause a bitter smell or taste, irritation of the nose, and nosebleeds.

No common side effects have been reported from the use of a saline nasal spray.

However, with all three types of sprays, if you experience any of the very serious (but rare) side effects listed below, seek medical attention or call 911 immediately:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • hives
  • increased wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Itchy skin
  • low blood pressure
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of the face, lips, or eyelids
  • tightness in the chest

 

Q: If an over-the-counter nasal spray doesn’t work, are their prescription nasal sprays?

A: Yes. There are a variety of prescription nasal sprays available to treat the congestion symptoms related to allergies, illnesses, and as an asthma prevention therapy.

Like all prescriptions medicines, however, you will need to see a doctor to get your hands on them.

If you have relentless congestion, even after trying over-the-counter nasal sprays, or your congestion returns immediately after clearing up for just a short while, give your doctor a call. He or she will be able to recommend the next best steps to tackle your chronic congestion.


Here is a list of sources we used when conducting our research on the best products an their proper uses:

We utilize many different resources while trying to provide the best information to our readers. Some are scholarly or clinical sources, some are information provided by medical and dietary professionals, and some sources are even other sites which may specialize in information that is relevant to our topic.

Sources

  1. Barbara Feder Ostrov, Allergy Relief: A Guide to Nasal Sprays, Informational Health Website, Jun 08, 2016
  2. Dale Kiefer, Cromolyn Sodium for Allergies, Informational Health Website, Mar 22, 2016
  3. Drugs.com Staff, Cromolyn Sodium (inhalation), Informational Health Website, Apr 03, 2017
  4. Nasal Agent, How quickly do decongestants work to relieve symptoms? , Informational Health Website,
  5. Chris Iliades, MD, Nose Sprays: A Bit of Relief for Sinus Problems, Informational Health Website, Jun 09, 2016
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