10 Best Nasal Sprays Reviewed & Compared

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As runners, we know how important it is to have a clear passage of breath to not only complete a successful run but to feel comfortable, too. Little is more annoying than lacing up your shoes, getting in the proper breakfast and nutrients, only to head out into a spring morning and have your allergies acting up. A blocked nose not only stops you from getting the proper supply of oxygen you need but breathing through your mouth means that you will most likely get thirsty, too, as your mouth dries from breathing heavily from it.

This clogged up nasal problem is no fun, but it is very simple to solve. It may be allergies that are acting up, or it may be a slight cold. Whatever the problem is, a nasal spray may just be what the doctor ordered. In the following list, we have put together a list of the 10 best nasal sprays that should help keep that delicate passage clear for all of your runs. Of course, you may want to consult with a doctor or health practitioner to ensure you are getting the right spray for you.

Last Updated: August 15, 2018
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By Madison Ambrose:

In this update, we have amped up the power of some of our choices. One most recent addition is the Vix Severe Nasal Spray. We have also changed up some of our content to provide you with the best information possible.

Mucinex Sinus-Max
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Nasal Crom Nasal Spray
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Zicam Intense Sinus Relief
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10 Best Nasal Sprays

1. Mucinex Sinus-Max Decongestant

1. Mucinex Sinus-Max Decongestant
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.

2. Nasal Crom

2. Nasal Crom
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.

3. Zicam Intense Sinus Relief

3. Zicam Intense Sinus Relief
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

4. Vicks Sinex Severe

4. Vicks Sinex Severe
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.
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Effectiveness
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.

Ingredients
The active ingredient in this product is Oxymetazoline HCl 0.05% and the inactive ingredients are Benzalkonium Chloride, Benzyl Alcohol, Citric Acid Anhydrous, Edetate Disodium, Fragrance, Polysorbate 80, Purified Water, Sodium Citrate, Sorbitol. Make sure you aren't allergic or sensitive to any of these ingredients before making your purchase.

Cost
This one comes at a pretty standard price for an over the counter nasal spray.
Pros
  • Provides immediate relief
  • Relieves nasal pressure
  • Shrinks swollen nasal membranes
  • Decongests your nasal passages
  • Lasts for up to 12 hours
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Not a long-term solution

5. XLEAR Xylitol Sinus Care

5. XLEAR Xylitol Sinus Care
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

6. Rhinocort Allergy

6. Rhinocort Allergy
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

7. Afrin Decongestant

7. Afrin Decongestant
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.

8. ClearLife Allergy Relief

8. ClearLife Allergy Relief
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

9. Ocean Saline

9. Ocean Saline
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

10. Nasacort Nasal Spray

10. Nasacort Nasal Spray
An effective option.

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 on and check if this will help you.
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Effectiveness

An effective 24-hour nasal spray for treating the symptoms of allergies.  Effectiveness results from the following impressive line-up. available over-the-counter that’s scent and alcohol-free

This treatment will work for 24 hours
Provides relief from sneezing and nasal congestion
Alleviates itchy and runny nose
Scent free solution
Alcohol-free solution
Gentle none harsh taste
Will not cause drowsiness 
Targetted effective use via spray
Ingredients

The solution has not had any scents added and is fully free from alcohol, a natural product created to give gentle relief.

Cost

Cost slightly more than some other brands and a worthwhile purchase

Pros

Scent free

Alcohol-free

Clears the nasal passages

Relief from sneezing

Relief from a runny nose

24 hour effective

Cons

Little higher in purchase price

So for cold, flu, or allergy relief–whether short or long term–there will definitely be something out there for you. So, unblock your nose 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 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.

When choosing the products on our list we looked at several factors–all of which are based on product research and reviews about products currently available on the market and commonly asked questions about this type of over-the-counter remedy. Below you will find detailed explanations about the factors we considered during our search. 

Ingredients

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.

Relief Duration

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.

Cromolyn Sodium (the common ingredient in inflammation-fighting nasal sprays)  is a mast cell stabilizer ingredient–which means it prevents mast cells from releasing histamine and other anti-inflammatory chemicals. These nasal sprays should be used at least 10-15 minutes prior to exposure to an allergen or an asthma-inducing incident. While they are highly effective, it could be several weeks before you see vast improvements in your congestion.

Nasal decongestant sprays utilize the active ingredients Phenylephrine and Oxymetazoline–which can provide congestion relief in as little as 10 minutes. However, it is recommended that decongestant nasal sprays be used for a maximum of 2 – 3 days because long-term they can actually increase your stuffiness.

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

Treatment

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. 

Symptom 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. 


Other Important Factors to Consider When Selecting the Best Nasal Spray

There are other details you should consider when selecting a nasal spray if you want to keep your allergy symptoms at bay while also keeping yourself up and running–literally!  The nasal spray you choose should treat the symptoms you exhibit and address the cause of your congestion.

To help this process easier for you, we have included a detailed explanation of some additional features you should consider before making your purchase.

Allergic Reactions

Some nasal sprays contain inactive ingredients or preservatives that pharmaceutical companies and doctors warn may cause an allergic reaction in some people. Be sure to thoroughly read the label before making your purchase–especially if you already know you have an allergic reaction to specific ingredients. 

Repetition of Symptoms

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.


FAQ

In order to further assist you on your search for the best and most suitable products for you to improve your running, we have included some frequently asked questions that pertain to purchasing and using nasal sprays.

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: 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 other 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: 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: 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
  • 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 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: Do nasal sprays contain any ingredients that can test positive against a runner in a competition?

Generally speaking, nasal sprays contain ingredients that will clear your nasal passages so you can breathe freely through your nose. Banned substances shouldn’t be part of the ingredients in a nasal spray, however different countries have different laws when it comes to banned stimulants–so be sure to check what is banned and compare those to the ingredients in your nasal spray.

Q: Recently my nose is always blocked, any suggestions?

Though we cannot give medical advice, we can say that allergies can emerge at any point in life–even adulthood. So, if you are experiencing chronic blockage you can either give an over the counter nasal spray a shot first or make a quick visit to your general physician’s office and find out what he suggests.

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!


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

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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