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Causes And Treatment Of Rhinitis Medicamentosa

Updated on August 20, 2012

Allergic rhinitis and sinusitis are upper respiratory infections that lead to severe congestion of the nose. While allergic rhinitis is the result of the effect of common allergens like grass and weed pollens, and mold and dust mites, sinusitis is caused due to acute wheezing and severe headaches.

Rhinitis medicamentosa

It is a common practice to use nasal decongestants available either over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicines to clear the nasal congestion. When you use these nasal decongestants in the form of gel or sprays for more than a specific period, the congestion becomes worse and you are said to suffer from rhinitis medicamentosa, its other name being "rebound congestion". When medicines meant for getting rid of a condition are used excessively, this condition results. In this case the medicines when used for more than 3 to 5 days loses its ability to clear the nasal passage of the block and also damages the nasal passage.

How is rhinitis medicamentosa caused?

The only known cause for this condition is the non-stop use of the prescription or OTC nasal decongestants. Once you use these medicines particularly the OTC sprays, you feel better but the effect is only temporary and you would want to use the medicine once again to clear the stuffiness in the nasal region. This way you get addicted to it and the condition becomes worse and the nasal block continues with the continued use of the sprays.

Effects of nasal congestion

  • sleeplessness
  • puffiness around the eyes
  • stuffy and runny nose
  • coughing, sneezing and watery and itchy eyes
  • restlessness and discomfort
  • total lack of focus on any work leaving you frustrated and irritable
  • headache due to nasal congestion worsens

What purpose do the decongestants serve?

Allergic rhinitis caused by viruses and bacteria result in the inflammation of the mucus membrane and dilatation of the blood vessels that blocks the nasal region making it difficult for the patient to breathe freely.

Decongestants are primarily meant for clearing up the nasal passage that is blocked due to sinusitis, cold and other allergens. They normally consist of phenylephrine, oxymetazoline and pseudoephedrine. These chemicals allow for the constriction of the blood vessels and thinning of the mucus formation and inflammation.

Nasal drops
Nasal drops | Source

Types of decongestants

There are different kinds of decongestants that are used for clearing the congestion of the nasal passage namely OTC gels and sprays, prescription medicines, saline solutions and antihistamines. Initially these medicines offer excellent relief to your problem tempting you to use it more expecting it to give you permanent relief and make you breathe easier. unfortunately this is not so. Using them for more than 3 days makes your nasal block worse than before and causes irritation.

People blame the medicines

While people who have suffered from rhinitis medicamentosa blame the medicines for causing such a terrible experience, research analysis points out that extended use of the medicines and not the medicines themselves are responsible for the suffering.

What you should look for when you buy OTC medicines

When you buy OTC sprays and gels to get rid of your allergic rhinitis or sinusitis, you need to read the directions on the label very carefully before using them. This is very important because the instructions specify the duration for which the medicines can be used at one go. In the case of medication for rhinitis, you'll find that the labels clearly warn you that they should not be used for more than three days continuously.

People who blindly use the sprays for more than the prescribed period suffer from rhinitis medicamentosa. This can be totally avoided with a little caution exercised by the consumers.

Can Rhinitis medicamentosa be cured?

First, you need to find out what has caused allergic rhinitis and look for a cure by avoiding it. Prevention is better than cure, so using OTC drugs should be avoided so that you escape the nasty effects of rhinitis medicamentosa.

But if you do use the sprays and on finding your allergic rhinitis getting worse with the continuous use of the nasal sprays, you should stop using them altogether. Of course it is easier to advise than to practice but there is no alternative. It is a habit you have got addicted to and you have to make an attempt to come out of it.

Consult your doctor immediately who will probably suggest use of prescription steroids and counseling to find out the cause of the real problem that led to excessive medication.

Natural ways to treat rhinitis medicamentosa

There are natural remedies that will give you relief from the severity of this condition. Alternative medicine is said to be useful in treating the allergy in an effective way. Acupressure is one of the ways used for getting rid of rhinitis medicamentosa completely.

Neti Pot
Neti Pot | Source

Saline irrigation

The natural method of clearing the nasal passage of all the microorganisms and makes breathing easier is called saline irrigation or nasal irrigation. In this method, a neti pot filled with warm water and a little salt mixed in it is inserted into one nostril. The water is slowly forced out through the other nostril. The wonderful effect of saline irrigation lies in the fact that it makes the mucus in the nasal passage thinner. The cilia in the nasal area destroy the bacteria and the viruses. This reduces the swelling and the inflammation giving you permanent relief. This can be done once or twice a day. It is a method that is recommended by doctors and is very effective in giving a clear solution to the problem.

On a final note

Many people imagine their problems due to cold and stuffy nose to be minor and resort to OTC sprays and gels for quick relief. Use of medicines without consulting your doctor is certainly not good for your body.

In case you must use them, use them as indicated on the label and do not overuse them as it leads to a very severe rhinitis medicamentosa. If the nasal block persists, it is best to see your doctor for proper treatment.

Saline irrigation


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    • remaniki profile image

      Rema T V 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      Hi dwachira,

      Not sure how I have missed many comments on my hubs. Sorry about the delayed response. Thank you for the visit and the votes. Yes, it is the lack of knowledge that makes people go in for such sprays and use them continuously in their anxiety to get cured but the reverse happens.

      Cheers, Rema.

    • remaniki profile image

      Rema T V 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      Hi bac2basics,

      Very nice of you to post a word of appreciation on my hub and think of passing on the information to a friend who certainly needs this advice. Thank you very much. Cheers, Rema.

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Spain

      Hi remaniki. What a useful hub. I have a friend who has been spraying decongestant up his nose for years, I keep telling him it should only be used for a short time. Now I will send him a link to this hub. Thanks for a great piece of advice.

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      People are used to OTC nasal decongestants obviously without clear knowledge of what that simple action can cause. You did well to explain it here about causes and treatment of Rhinitis Medicamentosa. Voted up and useful.

    • remaniki profile image

      Rema T V 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      Glad to hear that you have never had R.Medicamentosa. Hope you never get it. Thanks Keith for the visit and the share. Cheers, Rema.

    • remaniki profile image

      Rema T V 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      Hi Alecia,

      Glad that you do the neti pot exercise and get benefited from it. Thanks for the comment. Cheers, Rema.

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      I have never heard of this before until now. To be quite honest, I would have always assumed such symptoms were via allergies and the like. I'm just getting over a cold now and gladly I've never suffered Rhinitus Medicamentosa. Definitely an interesting read! Voted up and shared!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      This is a problem I've had for my entire life. But thankfully I've been able to get allergy shots and also irrigate my sinuses with the neti pot. I still have to take medication from time to time to alleviate reoccurring symptoms.Your hub is useful and well-written!

    • remaniki profile image

      Rema T V 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      Thanks for stopping by Angelme566. Cheers, Rema

    • remaniki profile image

      Rema T V 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      Thanks dinkan53 for the valuable input. Thanks for sharing it too. Cheers, Rema

    • Angelme566 profile image

      Angelme566 5 years ago

      Thanks for this information.

    • dinkan53 profile image

      dinkan53 5 years ago from India

      Identifying the allergen that causes your rhinitis and, if possible, avoiding it is an important first step in managing the condition effectively. Thanks for providing this useful information. Rated as useful and shared!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Improper use of OTC drugs can lead to more complicated and serious medical problems. I belive that consulting a doctor first is still important.