Stuffy Nose? Use Nasal Spray or Decongestant? Or something else?

So you have a stuffy nose. Maybe what you would call a sinus headache or sinus pressure. But no indication of an infection – no fevers, no truly gross green stuff. So, probably not full-blown sinusitis. You probably don’t need to see your doc about this. On the other hand, it’s annoying. Maybe even miserable. So what do you do about it? Nasal sprays? Oral, over-the-counter decongestants? That crazy, hippy Neti pot thing? What’s that all about, anyway?

Well, this brief article is for you.

I am here to tell you:  try nasal saline rinses. Yes, that crazy Neti pot thang. Only, I don’t really like using a Neti pot myself. My preference is a small plastic squeeze bottle, one with a bend in the neck of the bottle so that I don’t need to put a bend in my own neck to use it (like I do with a Neti pot).

If YOU struggle with a chronically stuffy nose, sinus headache or sinus pressure, you owe it to yourself to give nasal saline rinses a try. I promise an improvement! Really. I promise that you will breathe better through your nose. I can’t make that sort of promise with most of medicine, but this (saline rinsing) is guaranteed to improve your stuffy nose! And you know that’s true. How? Because I don’t make any more or less whether you believe me or not.

Nasal decongestant sprays have some serious risks associated with them – don’t become hooked on oxymetazoline! That’s right, use nasal decongestant sprays for more than a few days and you risk Rhinitis MedicamentosaSo, use this easy, gentle, natural solution: nasal saline rinses. Take a look at the articles below to learn more. It works for me. It will work for you. Best success!

Here is a list of articles on Nasal Saline Rinses:

… what they are, when and why to do them, how to do them, how to make your own.


“Sinusitis? Stuffy Nose? Rinse It Out!”

“Sinus Rinses: If Once / Day is Good, Is 4x/Day Even Better?”

“Sinus Rinses: What Good Are They?”

Part 4 of 4:

Part 3 of 4:

Part 2 of 4:

Part 1 of 4:


Additives for tough cases:

A review of the naturally-occurring sugar, Xylitol, and how it can help you fight off infections (including sinusitis): “A Story About a Sugar: The X-Factor”

A review of how honey helps to fight infections, including biofilm-forming bacteria that cause chronic sinusitis:  “Honey: Nature’s Antibiotic”

Special Cases:

When you over-use nasal decongestant sprays, severe stuffy nose results. That is, you simply cannot breathe through your nose. Here is a review of the problem, and how to handle it: “Rhinitis Medicamentosa

Concerns over brain-eating amoeba and nasal saline rinses have been raised in the popular press. Here is an interview with Infectious Disease Expert, Robert W. Tolan, to review the FACTS: “Brain Eating Amoeba and Nasal Rinses

The Special Case of Pregnancy Rhinitis:

A review of the physiological causes of Pregnancy Rhinitis and what to do about it:

“So WHY Do You Have Rhinitis of Pregnancy?”

“Rhinitis of Pregnancy 3.0”

“Rhinitis of Pregnancy: Allergic Rhinitis, or Something Else?”

“Rhinitis of Pregnancy: What it is, and What to DO About it”

Special Case of Chronic Rhino-Sinusitis:

“5-Step Program to Eliminate Chronic Sinusitis”


Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.

Russell Faust, PhD, MD boogordoctor

Dr. Faust and friend

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  1. Shaun Baird says:

    HI, came across your site last night. Am a 40 yr old male who had 2 sets of grommets in as achild and one set of t-tubes in as an adult about 6 years ago.

    I use a plastic neti pot with neilmed sachets whenever I get a cold/blocked and find it hard to breathe. It sometimes works, even with 2 sachets but often I still feel bunged up and frustrated.

    Ive been looking at the powered pulse electric nasal irrigation systems you’ve mentioned and would like to know if they are more intense/go deeper/do a better job than a simple gravity fed neti pot.

    Many thanks

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Shaun,
      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment / share.
      Your situation sounds like my own some years ago: severe, long-lasting sinusitis was the lingering effect of EVERY single cold/uri! I’m not a big fan of the traditional neti pot, mostly because I never got the hang of angling my head/neck for easy rinsing; I never felt that I was getting a decent rinse. My favorite is the plastic squeeze-bottle, specifically, the one from
      Their system is BPA-free plastic squeeze bottle, and the most comfortable saline packets that I have used (and I have used them all). Note: I have no financial relationship with Nasopure.
      Because I was successful with the Nasopure system (by including Manuka honey and even baby shampoo) in the rinse, I was finally able to eliminate my biofilm/chronic siniusitis. So, I never had the need to try the powered pulse-irrigation systems. However, because I have friends and patients who swear by their sinu-pulse systems, I include it on my Amazon Store (affiliate link). With your symptoms and history, I suggest that you take a look at the site – awesome resource, with rinse system, books, videos, etc. And Dr. Hana Solomon is a great doc, running her medical practice, as well as her mom-and-pop Nasopure company.
      Thanks again for sharing, and please keep me updated,

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Shaun,

      Sorry for my delayed reply.
      You are doing the right thing. You may like the powered systems (like the SinuPulse system, sold by Amazon:
      Alternatively, you might consider something in-between, like a squeeze-bottle. That method can provide a more active ‘flushing’ action without the investment of the powered system. My own personal favorite is the system from (transparency: no financial relationship). Their plastic squeeze-bottle is BPA-free, and their saline packets are the most comfortable saline recipe that I have used in my twenty-plus years of doing nasal saline rinses. Check that out, and if you find that it provides a better rinse than the passive, gravity-based Neti pot, then consider moving up to the powered SinuPulse.
      And, whatever you choose, please keep me updated.
      Thanks for visiting, and for sharing!

  2. Brett Fletcher says:

    Dr Faust, you are a very kind man to post this blog and website. I am a very desperate man. I have sinusitis that i believe it caused by the dehydrating effects of ativan. However i did not have any sinus problems until i had a cat scan of my head. Have you ever heard of cat scans irritating the nasal area? Thank you.

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hi Brett,
      Thank you for your kind comments.
      No, I have not heard of that. I HAVE heard many people tell me that their sinus problems started when they [fill-in-the-blank], with them associating their sinusitis with many different things, often coincidence. Considering the number of Sinus CT Scans that are performed every year, there would be evidence of that connection. Sinus issues can be related to various medications, though.
      Best success.

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