Getting the Oxymetazoline Monkey Off Your Back:
Don’t Become an Oxy-Addict!
Oxymetazoline – Afrin, Neosynephrine, Dristan – oxymetazoline.
If you have chronic nasal congestion, oxymetazoline can provide pure magical relief.
For short periods.
It can reduce nasal swelling to help eliminate an acute sinusitis, or simply to help open your nose during a “cold”.
But if you use it regularly, every day, for a week or more, you are potentially in for some serious trouble.
Your nose can become addicted.
Addiction: in this case, meaning “physical dependence,” whereby your nose has developed a tolerance, and you will experience negative physical symptoms of withdrawal resulting from abrupt discontinuation or reduction in dose.
Simply put, you started using oxymetazoline to reduce nasal congestion, and now your nose needs it in order to remain open. If you stop using it, your nose will slam shut, with congestion worse than before you started using oxymetazoline.
The medical term is Rhinitis medicamentosa
Perhaps you have noticed this? You started using oxy last year when you had that cold, just to open your nose so you could sleep. Now you can’t breathe well enough to sleep without it. Sometimes you use it several times a day just in order to breathe.
First rule of using oxymetazoline: never use it for longer than 5 days in a row.
So … what now?
How to manage Rhinitis medicamentosa?
If your nose is severely dependent on oxymetazoline, you may need some professional help in kicking this addiction.
Things that a professional may consider include:
- Stop using oxymetazoline – either cold-turkey, or gradually (recommended). You can do this yourself, without professional help. I have found that a good trick is to alternate the spray in one nostril for one night, and spray for the other nostril the next night, alternating between the sides of the nose. This gives each side a day spray-free for recovery. Gradually reduce the amount of spray used, and gradually increase nights not using spray.
- Daily hypertonic nasal saline rinses (such as Nasopure) for a week only. The hypertonic nature of these can help reduce swelling of the nasal lining. You can do this yourself. (transparency: I have NO financial or other relationship with Nasopure or Dr. Hana Solomon; it’s simply a great product).
(You can use regular saline nasal rinses forever, but limit use of hypertonic saline to a week to keep those cilia happy.)
- Consider systemic (oral) nasal decongestants, such as sudaphed. Many of these are available over-the-counter, and may help reduce “rebound” nasal congestion.
- Topical steroids – nasal steroid sprays. These can also help reduce nasal congestion, especially during the “recovery” or “rebound” phase. They are by prescription.
- Systemic (oral) steroids. They are by prescription. These are a more intensive treatment to help keep your nasal congestion down during the recovery phase, usually during the first 5 days or so. Should be considered with caution, since systemic steroid use can have some nasty adverse effects.
To say that Rhinitis medicamentosa is annoying is a huge understatement.
No, the withdrawal symptoms are nothing like those of withdrawal from heroin that are portrayed in television dramas. On the other hand, the severity of nasal congestion that results from oxymetazline withdrawal can make the worst cold of your life seem tame.
The easiest way to avoid this hassle is to limit your use of oxymetazoline to (maximum) 4 or 5 days in a row. If you must use it, give your nose a break for a few days after every 4 days of use.
Better yet, just avoid it completely. Use nasal saline rinses instead for optimal nasal hygiene.
As a general rule, do not use spay nasal decongestants in children.
(Transparency: links to boogordoctor’s Amazon Store are affiliate links)
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