Your guide to nasal sprays for hay fever

Woman using a nasal spray

With hay fever season in full swing, you may be looking for a new treatment to relieve your symptoms. Nasal sprays are a popular and effective way of treating nasal congestion caused by hay fever and other common allergies.

In fact, most nasal sprays usually work faster than typical hay fever tablets. There are plenty of different types, from non-medicated options for mild hay fever to prescription-only nasal sprays for those with more severe symptoms. 

In this guide, we’ll look at the different kinds of nasal sprays used to treat hay fever, so you can find one that’s right for you. 

What are the different types of nasal sprays? 

Nasal sprays can be used to treat mild to severe hay fever and allergy symptoms, as well as colds, flu and other conditions affecting the nose. 

To determine which nasal spray would be the best option for you, take a look through the different types that are on offer. From steroids to antihistamines, there are a wide range of different medicines available. 


Some nasal sprays contain steroids called corticosteroids, a type of medicine that reduces inflammation in the body. 

Corticosteroid nasal sprays can be used to treat a wide range of conditions related to nasal congestion, including hay fever, sinusitis, non-allergic rhinitis and nasal polyps. Some prescription corticosteroid nasal sprays can even relieve itchy or watery eyes as well as nasal symptoms. 

Some different types of corticosteroid nasal sprays include:

  • Beclomethasone (Beconase, Pollenase)
  • Fluticasone (Pirinase, Avamys)
  • Mometasone (Clarinaze, Nasonex)
  • Triamcinolone (Nasacort)

Corticosteroid nasal sprays can be very effective at controlling hay fever symptoms and they’re usually safe for most people to use as a long-term treatment. 

Your doctor or pharmacist will usually instruct you to start using your corticosteroid nasal spray a couple of weeks before you think your symptoms may start because they can take a few days to start working. That could mean starting your treatment a couple of weeks before your hay fever symptoms usually start, or keeping an eye on the pollen count forecast. 

Side effects of corticosteroid nasal sprays usually aren’t very significant, but can include: 

  • A stinging or burning sensation in the nose
  • Dryness in the nose
  • A dry, irritated throat
  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Itchiness, redness and swelling in the nose
  • Nose bleeds



Some other nasal sprays may include a type of medicine known as a decongestant. Decongestant nasal sprays work by shrinking swollen blood vessels in the nose, opening up the airways and making it easier for you to breathe through your nose. 

Decongestants can be used to relieve nasal congestion related to hay fever, cold and flu, catarrh, sinusitis or other allergic reactions. 

Types of decongestant nasal sprays include: 

  • Xylometazoline (Sudafed, Otrivine) 
  • Oxymetazoline (Vicks Sinex)

Unlike corticosteroid nasal sprays, decongestant nasal sprays should not be used as a long-term treatment. You shouldn’t use a decongestant nasal spray for more than a week at a time, as using them for too long can make your symptoms worse. 

Decongestant nasal sprays don’t usually have any side effects, but you could experience the following: 

  • Feeling sleepy
  • Irritation of the lining of your nose
  • Headaches
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling restless or agitated
  • Rash


Antihistamine nasal sprays work by preventing the effects of histamine, a chemical released by the body during an allergic reaction. 

When someone is allergic to something, such as pollen or dust, the immune system reacts as if the substance is harmful to the body by releasing histamine into the bloodstream. In hay fever and allergic rhinitis, histamine causes symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itchy throat and watery or itchy eyes. 

Antihistamines are a common treatment for hay fever, usually in the form of tablets or liquid suspensions. There are antihistamines available in the form of nasal sprays too, often including the active ingredient azelastine (Dymista, Rhinolast).

The benefit of using an antihistamine nasal spray rather than an oral antihistamine is that they’re usually less likely to cause drowsiness. This doesn't necessarily mean the nasal sprays won’t cause drowsiness, however, so you should monitor any side effects and avoid driving or using machinery if you do experience any sleepiness or dizziness. 

Other possible side effects of antihistamine nasal sprays can include: 

  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Slight irritation of the inside of the nose (stinging, itching)
  • Sneezing
  • Nosebleeds 



Some nasal sprays are formulated without any medicines. These can be a good choice for those with mild nasal congestion, or if you’re allergic (hypersensitive) to certain medicines. 

They can also be used alongside other hay fever and allergy treatments without any medicine interactions. 

Non-medicated nasal sprays are most commonly made using saline (salt water). Saline works in a nasal spray by loosening mucus in the nose, easing congestion and making it easier to breathe through the nose. 

You can find saline nasal sprays from many brands including Sterimar, Vicks, Benadryl and more. Saline nasal sprays are also a great option for relieving congestion in babies and young children, with various options from brands like Snufflebabe and Calpol. 

Since there’s no active medicine in saline nasal sprays, they shouldn’t cause any side effects provided you aren’t allergic to any of the ingredients. 

Nasal sprays are one of the most effective ways of relieving nasal allergy symptoms. With a range of treatments including non-medicated and prescription-strength options, there’s a suitable nasal spray for everyone.

You can browse our full range of nasal sprays and related products for nasal congestion here.

Faye Bonnell - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 16 March 2023
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