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10 Best Nasal Sprays Reviewed & Compared

last updated Dec 01, 2018
As runners, we know how important it is to breathe clearly and freely during our runs. One of the most annoying things that can happen to us, as runners, is for our allergies to start acting up right before our runs. Luckily, there are tons of nasal sprays to choose from--and our list features the best options out there.
These will prevent any nasal issues or clogging from occurring and will help keep those pesky allergy symptoms at bay throughout the day and during your runs.
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By Giselle Killebrew:

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.

Sorting Options
Use Portability Potency By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
95.7
Use
98%
Portability
96%
Potency
93%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$14.67
2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.3
Use
94%
Portability
97%
Potency
92%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$23.79
3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.3
Use
93%
Portability
95%
Potency
92%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$11.97
4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.7
Use
97%
Portability
96%
Potency
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$17.43
5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.7
Use
96%
Portability
91%
Potency
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$19.43
6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.3
Use
92%
Portability
94%
Potency
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$24.95
7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.3
Use
96%
Portability
85%
Potency
87%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$10.10
8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.7
Use
96%
Portability
88%
Potency
82%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$16.82
9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.7
Use
94%
Portability
82%
Potency
87%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$4.64
10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.3
Use
88%
Portability
80%
Potency
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (11.12.18)
$7.62
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Vicks Sinex Severe
  • Zicam Intense Sinus Relief
  • ClearLife Allergy Relief
  • Nasal Crom
  • Mucinex Sinus-Max Decongestant
  • Nasacort Nasal Spray
  • XLEAR Xylitol Sinus Care
  • Rhinocort Allergy
  • Afrin Decongestant
  • Ocean Saline
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

10 Best Nasal Sprays

1. Vicks Sinex Severe

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
95.7
Vicks Sinex Severe
Use
98
Portability
96
Potency
93
best offer for today
$14.67
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

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

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 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.

Cost

This one comes at a pretty standard price for an over the counter nasal spray.

2. Zicam Intense Sinus Relief

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.3
Zicam Intense Sinus Relief
Use
94
Portability
97
Potency
92
best offer for today
$23.79
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

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

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.

3. ClearLife Allergy Relief

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.3
ClearLife Allergy Relief
Use
93
Portability
95
Potency
92
best offer for today
$11.97
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

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.

Read more

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!

4. Nasal Crom

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.7
Nasal Crom
Use
97
Portability
96
Potency
85
best offer for today
$17.43
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.

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

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 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.

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

5. Mucinex Sinus-Max Decongestant

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.7
Mucinex Sinus-Max Decongestant
Use
96
Portability
91
Potency
88
best offer for today
$19.43
Pros:

Kicks in quickly

Average price

Cons:

Doesn't last for 12 hours for some

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.

Read more

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 number 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.

6. Nasacort Nasal Spray

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.3
Nasacort Nasal Spray
Use
92
Portability
94
Potency
85
best offer for today
$24.95
Pros:

Scent free

Alcohol-free

Clears the nasal passages

Relief from sneezing

Relief from a runny nose

24 hour effective

Cons:

Pricey

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

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 and provides relief from sneezing and nasal congestion. It will also alleviate itchy and runny nose and is a scent & alcohol-free solution. It's gentle and non-existent taste will not bother you and it does not cause drowsiness.

Cost

It costs slightly more than some other brands and a worthwhile purchase.

7. XLEAR Xylitol Sinus Care

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.3
XLEAR Xylitol Sinus Care
Use
96
Portability
85
Potency
87
best offer for today
$10.10
Pros:

Good price

Great natural approach

Excellent over the long-term

Nice sweet taste and smell

Cons:

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

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!

8. Rhinocort Allergy

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.7
Rhinocort Allergy
Use
96
Portability
88
Potency
82
best offer for today
$16.82
Pros:

Gets to work quickly

Less common ingredients

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

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

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 number of users, but these people are in the minority.

Ingredients

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.

Price

It’s quite expensive given the size of the bottle, but if it works for you, then it’s absolutely worth the price!

9. Afrin Decongestant

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.7
Afrin Decongestant
Use
94
Portability
82
Potency
87
best offer for today
$4.64
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.

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

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!

10. Ocean Saline

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.3
Ocean Saline
Use
88
Portability
80
Potency
88
best offer for today
$7.62
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

The last one on this list is saline-based and is good for moisturizing 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.

Read more

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 moisturizing. 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.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Use

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.

Portability

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.

Potency

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.

Give it Time

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.

Don't Overdo It

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

Features

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.

Value

Most nasal sprays are around the same price, however, there are some that are significantly more expensive than others. While most over the counter options won't break the bank, we wanted to include more affordable options for those you who don't want to splurge on a nasal spray you may rarely need. Those of you who need longer-lasting options or need something you can rely on regularly will definitely enjoy many options on our list.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: 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.

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?
a:

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: 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. 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?
a:

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: Q: If an over-the-counter nasal spray doesn’t work are there prescription nasal sprays I can use?
a:

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

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

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: Q: Are there natural alternatives I can use?
a:

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!

Sources

  1. Barbara Feder Ostrov, Everyday Health, Website, Jun 08, 2016
  2. Dale Kiefer, HealthLine, Informational Health Website, Mar 22, 2016
  3. Cerner Multum, Drugs.com, Informational Health Website, Apr 03, 2017
  4. Chris Iliades, MD, Everyday Health, Informational Health Website, Jun 09, 2016