Administering Nasal Medications: What You Need to Know

The nasal route allows the administration of drugs with local action on the nasal mucosa or with systemic action on the respiratory system. Here's what you should know about administering nasal medications.
Administering Nasal Medications: What You Need to Know
Nelton Abdon Ramos Rojas

Written and verified by the doctor Nelton Abdon Ramos Rojas.

Last update: 11 June, 2022

Administering medications through the nasal route is an often-used technique due to being easy to handle and it offers many advantages over other routes of administration.

By directly inhaling the medication, your body can absorb it better. This is because it passes directly into the lungs and nasal mucosa, which reduces the number of side effects. Overall, this allows you to use smaller doses because nothing of medication is virtually in other areas.

For this reason, doctors increasingly use this route of administration for many medications. Continue reading for more information!

Nasal medications: an alternative for administering medication

The nasal route is a good alternative to administer medications in patients who have difficulties swallowing.

A woman taking nasal spray for her cold.
Most cases of the flu are mild and get better without medication. However, many of its symptoms can be relieved with painkillers, decongestants, and antihistamines.

The nasal mucosa is full of little blood vessels. Therefore, if a drug is applied directly in the form of nasal drops, it will act locally. However, if it’s meant to have an overall effect in the airways, doctors recommend sprays with microparticles of the drug.

However, not all patients can use the oral route to administer medications. For example, it’s best for seniors citizens who have problems swallowing or babies who are at risk of choking, etc.

If the patient is unable to breathe correctly (for example, if you have problems with respiratory insufficiency or simply because your child doesn’t have developed lungs), you can use nebulizer medications and a mask to inhale passively without any effort.

Read this article, too: How Do Inhalers Work?

What types of drugs are administered through nasal medications?

There are many families of medications that doctors may administer with nasal medications. Below, you can find out which are the most commonly used medications and what type of diseases they’re useful for:

  • Steroids. In this case, we’re referring to intranasal steroids. They’re the definitive treatment of allergic rhinitis and allergic rhinosinusitis. Their effectiveness is very high, even in difficult cases when there’s a chronic issue.
  • Antihistamines. These block the release of histamine, which is the substance that plays a key role in the development of allergic processes. In general, they are sprays that release in the nasal mucosa. Doctors use them in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Because histamine is a vasodilator, sometimes doctors also use them to relieve other types of rhinitis. They can be combined with intranasal steroids to get the best results.
  • Alpha-blockers. These are the famous nasal decongestants. They’re used for very short periods, only a couple of days to avoid a rebound effect, which ends up weakening the blood vessels and producing the so-called rhinitis medicamentosa.

Check out this article, too: Everything You Need to Know about Bronchiectasis

How to go about administering nasal medications?

The procedure is very simple and does not require any prior preparation. The patient should be sitting to favor hyperextension of the neck backward. However, apart from that, there are no special recommendations.


Man with nasal congestion
The simplicity of this administration facilitates the routine use of this route for various illnesses.

The procedure’s very simple and doesn’t require any prior preparation. It’s best for the patient to sit down in order to favor hyperextension of the neck backwards, but other than that, there are no special recommendations.

First, the patient must have good nostril hygiene. This prevents microorganisms from entering into the interior part of the mucosa. Afterward, place the vial in the nostril. You have to be careful not to touch the wall of the nostrils. It’s better to point it toward the middle so as not to waste the medication.

The next step is to release the drug while breathing through your mouth. This prevents sneezing and helps the medication stay in the correct area. Remember that the back of the nose is called the rhinopharynx. This area constitutes the upper portion of the airway.

The medication can fall into your throat if you don’t breathe correctly by using your mouth while your neck is extended. Finally, you must stay in that position for a couple of minutes. This allows for the absorption of the medication.

If you cough after applying nasal drops, don’t worry. This is normal, especially during the first few times. However, if the cough gets worse and other respiratory symptoms such as the feeling of lacking breath (dyspnea), difficulty breathing, etc, it may be an allergic reaction.

In this case, go to the doctor urgently so they can evaluate it. You can also prescribe corticosteroids to reduce the constriction of the airway. Consider performing allergy tests on the medications before taking them. However, in the vast majority of cases, coughing is due to a hypersensitivity reaction.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.