10 Best Nasal Sprays Reviewed & Compared
With summer upon us, we have already been going through the height of allergy season—but it never really ends for many of us, unfortunately. When our allergies act up while we are out running it can be more than just annoying because it prevents our ability to breathe properly and slows us down quite a bit. But, with one of the best nasal sprays on our list, you won’t have to worry about skipping your runs because of an impending allergy attack.
The best nasal sprays should prevent nasal issues, such as clogging and other allergy-related symptoms, so you can hit your run no matter what season it is!
Check out the best nasal sprays, fully reviewed, below!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 11 hrs of research
Works for 24 hours
Safe for age 2 and up
- Flonase Sensimist
- Vicks Sinex Severe
- Zicam Intense Sinus Relief
- Nasal Crom
- Nasacort Nasal Spray
- XLEAR Xylitol Sinus Care
- Rhinocort Allergy
- Afrin Decongestant
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
10 Best Nasal Sprays
1. Flonase Sensimist
Works for 24 hours
Safe for age 2 and up
Can't be used for more than just a few days
The Flonase Sensimist nasal spray is a highly effective product that will clear up your allergies and won't deter you from going your runs--or going outside for that matter. It is perfect for almost anyone, no matter their age, and is a perfect addition to any medicine cabinet--whether you are a year-round runner or not.Read more
Whether you are running outside on a hot summer day or during the cold winter months, the Flonase Sensimist nasal spray will provide 24-hour relief and only needs to be used once a day. It's safe for anyone age 2 and up and will ensure your allergy symptoms are properly taken care of.
While this nasal spray is not made for daily use, it is certainly on that you can take with you wherever you go so you can have it on hand. Since it is potent you can't rely on it for long term, everyday use but you could even stash it in your pockets just in case an allergy attack hits you right in the middle of your run.
This product uses several effective ingredients to block several allergens. It is alcohol-free and scent free but it still gets the job done with the ingredients that it features!
2. Vicks Sinex Severe
Provides immediate relief
Relieves nasal pressure
Shrinks swollen nasal membranes
Decongests your nasal passages
Lasts for up to 12 hours
Not a long-term solution
If you suffer from sinus congestion, especially during allergy season, then this is a great option for you. While it might not be as well-known as some other brands on our list, it is definitely as effective. This product will provide you with relief from congestion, so you can go on your runs without having to worry about being bogged down because you are unable to breathe.Read more
This nasal spray will kick in pretty quickly once you take it. It is meant to relieve nasal pressure as well as to shrink your swollen nasal membranes. This will allow you to breathe more freely. This decongestant will last for 12 hours, so you can experience relief throughout the day from just one dosage
If you want a nasal spray you can easily stash in your purse, backpack, or pocket this one is definitely really portable. It is small and compact enough to take with you wherever you go--just make sure you keep it in the temperature it needs to be stored in, so don't forget it in your gym bag or car during the hot or cold months.
The active ingredient in this product is Oxymetazoline HCl 0.05% and the inactive ingredients include Citric Acid Anhydrous, Purified Water, and Sorbitol. Make sure you aren't allergic or sensitive to any of these ingredients before making your purchase.
3. Zicam Intense Sinus Relief
Great for mid-run
Works quickly and effectively
Refreshing with cooling ingredients
Doesn’t trickle down the throat
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
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.Read more
This is non-drowsy and really does get to work very quickly. For a mid-run blast, this is a fantastic remedy that 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, but it’s nothing too uncomfortable.
This is another nasal spray that is really portable and easy to take anywhere. This bottle is actually smaller than most, so it will be less bulky and less noticeable if you decide to stash it in your pocket real quick when you head out the door.
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.
Safe for daily use
Keeps allergy symptom at bay
Not as effective at treating cold and flu symptoms
While the Fluticare nasal spray isn't made to treat flu and cold symptoms, it provides relief from allergy symptoms so that you can go on your daily run without having to worry about that runny nose standing in your way.Read more
Fluticare will relieve your nasal congestion and allergy symptoms as well as prevent these symptoms from coming back for the next day. It;s important to note that this will not help with symptoms from asthma or prevent any attacks.
This nasal spray is a little bulkier than others but still really portable. The best part is that you can use this one every day if you need to, so you can definitely keep it on hand wherever you go thanks to its compact size.
Fluticare's formula won't make you sleepy and uses a fluticasone propionate formula to clear up your symptoms and ensure you can enjoy your runs.
5. Nasal Crom
Very good long-term effects with prevention in addition to cure
If your focus is allergy prevention, this is great.
Won’t really do the job mid-run
The benzalkonium chloride ingredient can, for some people, be damaging long-term.
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.Read more
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 defenses, 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.
This nasal spray is a perfect addition to every medicine cabinet, especially if you suffer from severe allergies that impeded your daily lives and even keep you from running. While it is portable, this one is definitely bulkier than others so you will want to stash in your bag or purse if you are in a hurry to head out of the house--just make sure you don't forget it in the car!
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.
Free of harsh ingredients
Uses Aloe Vera
Doesn't last very long
The Ayr no-drip spray is easy to use, affordable, and will effectively treat your symptoms so that you can go on your runs without having to worry about those pesky allergy symptoms.Read more
This nasal spray is a no-drip, dye-free, moisturizing spray that will clear up your sinus. Since it's made of natural ingredients, it doesn't last as long as some of the other nasal sprays on our list.
This effective and affordable nasal spray can be taken anywhere you go--which is perfect since you can use it every day if it is necessary.
This nasal spray features saline and aloe vera as its main ingredients. This allows this nasal spray to clear your sinuses as well as moisturize them every time you use it! This nasal spray even markets itself as gluten-free--so if you have a severe gluten intolerance or allergy then you will want to check this one out.
7. Nasacort Nasal Spray
Clears the nasal passages
Relief from sneezing
Relief from a runny nose
24 hour effective
Twenty four hour relief in a convenient application, alcohol-free and no scents used in the making of this prescription strength product, purchase over the counter without needing to get a prescription from a doctor. Very good for treating the symptoms of allergies which result in nasal blockage and discomfort. With powerful effective anti-inflammatory properties which target providing relief from nasal congestion. Two bottles, double your treatment time if needed, you get 120 spray shots.Read more
This is an effective 24-hour nasal spray that will treat your allergy symptoms and ensure that you can hit your run like you would any other day that you won't be plagued with allergies. It is specifically formulated to work for up to 24 hours (hence the name) and will relieve sneezing, nasal congestion, and itch and runny noses!
This is one of the most portable nasal sprays out there--although you probably won't need to take it anywhere, unless you are traveling, since it is formulated to relieve your symptoms for up to 24 hours!
This nasal spray features strong ingredients that are powerful enough to relieve your symptoms for up to 24 hours. That being said, it is also alcohol-free and scent free so it will be gentle on your nasal cavities without sacrificing effectiveness.
8. XLEAR Xylitol Sinus Care
Great natural approach
Excellent over the long-term
Nice sweet taste and smell
Isn’t great for a quick blast
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.Read more
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 is a big difference compared to most other options on the market.
This nasal spray is a perfect addition to your outdoor running regimen if you suffer from regular allergies and need something you can keep on hand to use whenever you need it. It is really portable and easy to carry--although it is too bulky to stash in your pocket.
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.
9. Rhinocort Allergy
Gets to work quickly
Less common ingredients
Good for a spray on the go
Can work for up to 24 hours
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
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.Read more
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 number of users, but these people are in the minority.
While this one is really portable thanks to its compact size it is pricey given the size. But if you want something effective and easy to stash anywhere, then this is a perfect option for you!
Budesonide is not 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.
10. Afrin Decongestant
Works very quickly
Best if you’re looking to relieve allergy symptoms
Works for up to 12 hours
Many users have experienced bad reactions to this.
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.Read more
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.
This is a perfect nasal spray to have on hand if you find that it works for you. It is compact and easy to take anywhere, so portability is not an issue whatsoever.
The active ingredient works just fine, but do check properly before buying since other users have experienced bad reactions to this.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Seasonal and other allergies can really stuff you up and make your runs pretty miserable–which is understandable, considering being able to control your breath is an important component to running. Luckily, over-the-counter nasal sprays can offer some relief from symptoms caused by allergies or colds and get you back on track 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 are three types of over-the-counter nasal sprays–those that prevent inflammation, decongestant sprays, and Saline nasal sprays.
Nasal sprays that fight inflammation contain the ingredient Cromolyn Sodium. When a spray with this ingredient is used before being exposed to allergens–such as dust, pollen, or pets–symptoms like congestion can be prevented. This type of spray has also been shown to prevent asthma attacks.
Decongestant sprays, on the other hand, have non-prescription ingredients that treat congestion. These are used once you are already stuffed up and experiencing difficulty breathing. They are meant for short-term use and not made to prevent or treat long-term allergy symptoms.
Saline nasal sprays are made of a simple saltwater solution. They are used to clear out your nose and sinus and help keep blood vessels in your nose moist, which prevents dryness that may lead to nosebleeds and irritation.
When we looked at portability we considered the size of each product and how easy each one would be to carry around. Most of the options last for up to 12 hours, which may mean you won't have to carry it with you--however, we know you may want to have something you can keep on you so we made sure to make this one of our driving factors. The more portable options are smaller, slimmer, and lighter. They aren't bulky and allow you to take them with you wherever you go and ensure you always have access to your nasal spray--even during your runs.
There's no point in buying any over-the-counter medicine that won't actually work. But at the same time, there's a serious safety concern if an OTC medication is too potent, since it can lead to negative health effects if you aren't careful. That's why we've evaluated all of the products on this list for their potency to make sure they hit that Goldilocks zone: not too weak, but not too strong.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Just like any medication, nasal sprays take time to “kick in,” and that amount of time it depends on the effective ingredients in the spray you choose. These nasal sprays should be used at least 10-15 minutes prior to exposure to an allergen or an asthma-inducing incident.
Many of the nasal sprays designed for decongestant purposes contain acidic compounds as key ingredients. Although these compounds aren't strong enough to cause real damage, you should still take care to avoid overdoing it on these sprays. Your nasal passages can develop a dependency and have difficulty functioning properly on their own if you take these everyday for a long enough period of time.
Other Factors to Consider
A nasal spray administers medicine via inhalation. Depending on your specific needs, you will either choose an inflammatory prevention nasal spray, a decongestant nasal spray, or a saline nasal spray. Inflammatory prevention sprays utilize Cromolyn Sodium as its effective ingredient–this makes it a long-term option for those of you struggle with chronic congestion. These nasal sprays will prevent symptoms from appearing and even help prevent asthma attacks from occurring.
Decongestant nasal sprays shrink the blood vessels in your nose for immediate relief. These should only be used for about 2-3 days and are a perfect option for those who experience allergic reactions on occasion or for those of you just getting over a cold.
Saline sprays reduce the thickness of the mucus in your nose, which allows it to drain. You can use these as needed for a quick relief.
As previously mentioned, symptom relief also depends on which type of nasal spray you are using. Cromolyn Sodium-based nasal sprays are better suited for long-term therapeutic use. They will fight off symptoms with consistent use and even help keep asthma attacks at bay. A decongestant nasal spray, like those that contain phenylephrine and oxymetazoline, can keep symptoms at bay for up to 12 hours. However, these should only be used for 2-3 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–however, you can use them as needed to clear up your congestion.
If nasal and sinus congestion is a new or infrequent symptom for you, a nasal spray might be the right solution to battle and improve your symptoms. They are inexpensive, simple to use, and available at any pharmacy or grocery store. However, if you have been experiencing chronic congestion you may need to pay a visit to your physician or an ENT specialist to find a better option for you. Long-term congestion may also be a sign of a more serious condition or infection, so be sure to seek advice from a medical professional before purchasing an over the counter nasal spray.
While most nasal sprays are all around the same price range, some are pricier or more cost-effective than others. All of the nasal sprays on our list are over the counter options that won't break the bank, but we want to point out that we provided a well-rounded list of more affordable options as well as more expensive nasal sprays, so you could have lots of choices to choose from If you need a longer lasting option--like those that last for up to 24 hours--you will definitely end up spending a little more, but it is definitely worth the investment if it will fit your needs.
All that being said, the cost of the nasal spray is not the only thing to consider when looking at the overall value of the product. When we compiled our list we took a look at the price--and we know that everyone has their own budget or the specific amount they are willing to spend--and took a step further by comparing it to all of the benefits and features the nasal spray has to offer. We compared the overall cost the ingredients that are used in its formulation, how portable it is or isn't, the potency of the formula, and how gentle it is to use. We took all of this and compared it to the investment that would have to be made and determined its overall value.
While we did this for the purpose of our list and reviews, we encourage you to do this on your own as well. You may have allergies, specific needs, and things you are looking for (or want to stay away from). There is no point in purchasing the most expensive or most affordable nasal spray if it doesn't benefit you in the long run--so please, make sure to apply this to your own personal needs before making a final decision and while determining the overall value the nasal spray will bring to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Q: How do I know if I should use a nasal spray?
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.
However, if you have had any nasal passage injuries–such as a broken nose or blood vessel cauterization–you may need to avoid nasal sprays because they may cause more harm than good.
q: Q: How do I use a nasal spray?
While nasal sprays are simple to use once you know how to properly use them, they may be difficult to get the hang of at first. There is a proper way to use a nasal spray, and the steps 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 on your bottle for the proper squeezing technique. Some nasal spray bottle are side squeeze, while others have a bottom pump that is used with the thumb.
6. Repeat with another nostril.
7. Do not blow your nose or sneeze immediately after using spray.
8. Repeat use according to directions.
q: Q: Can I become addicted to nasal sprays?
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. As a result, your congestion returns, sometimes, even worse than it was in the first place. This leads to relying on the medicine much more, having to switch to a more potent medication, or stopping the 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 necessary.
q: Q: What are the side effects of using nasal sprays?
Nasal sprays can present different side effects based on their effective ingredients. A nasal spray that contains Cromolyn Sodium can cause side effects such as 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, or 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
- 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: Q: If an over-the-counter nasal spray doesn’t work are there prescription nasal sprays I can use?
Yes, there are a variety of prescription nasal sprays available to be used as an asthma prevention therapy as well as to treat congestion symptoms related to allergies, illnesses and as an asthma prevention therapy.
However, like all prescription medications, you will need to see a doctor beforehand.
q: Q: Are there natural alternatives I can use?
Yes, there are safe and natural alternatives you can choose from. You can either research natural nasal sprays made with natural ingredients or visit your local herb shop to see what they have available. You may be surprised by how many natural remedies actually exist!