Are Nasal Sprays Safe For Kids? by Dr. Srikanta J T

5 min read

Written by Dr. Srikanta J T

Dr. Srikanta J T

Nasal Sprays for Children
We cannot see our kids suffer, whether it is because of a fever, vaccination or just common cold or allergies. Cold and cough are common in babies. The nights become miserable for you and your little one when your kid catches a seasonal allergy. They cough, sneeze, get a runny nose, but the most bothering for both of you is when they can’t breathe through their nose as they are all stuffed up. They cannot sleep and you cannot sleep as well, seeing them in such a condition. Are Nasal Sprays Safe For Kids?

Many nasal sprays are available in the market to provide instant relief from blocked noses. But are they all safe? There are three types of nasal sprays and some of them are unsafe too. In this article, we explain the safety of nasal sprays for kids, how you can use them, side effects if any, and alternatives you can try out if you do not wish to opt for a nasal spray for your little one.

In This Article

What Are Nasal Sprays?

Nasal sprays are dubbed as “quick fixes” for providing relief to congested nasal passages caused by colds, allergies, or sinus infections. However, nasal sprays are just a short-term solution, and should never be used for more than 3 days in continuity. Also, nasal sprays should never be used on infants, unless prescribed by the doctor.

Types of Nasal Sprays Available

Girl holding nasal spray

Three types of nasal sprays are available

1. Decongestant Nasal Sprays

Decongestant nasal sprays are used to ease the stuffy nose. You can purchase it with a doctor’s prescription for topical use. They are often available in the form of spray or drops. They work by narrowing the small blood vessels in your nose and thus reduce the swelling.

These should not be used for more than 3-4 days as they can create a rebound effect and worsen the congestion once the effect wears off. They provide quick relief as they contain chemical medications. Some of the medicines used in these nasal sprays:

  • Oxymetazoline
  • Phenylephrine
  • Xylometazoline
  • Naphazoline

2. Saline Nasal Sprays

It contains a salt-water solution and can be purchased without any prescription. They do not contain any medication.

3. Steroid Nasal Sprays

These are used for allergic rhinitis symptoms and also for nasal blocks. They last longer and are anti-inflammatory. These antihistamine sprays work by blocking histamine and one dose will last for 12 hours. Some of the medicines used in these sprays include:

  • Fluticasone
  • Mometasone
  • Triamcinolone
  • Beclomethasone

Are Nasal Sprays Safe For Kids?

Are nasal sprays safe for kids

Let’s look at the safety of the nasal sprays discussed above one by one.

1. Decongestant Nasal Sprays

A statement from Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in 2009 says that-

  • OTC medicines for cough and cold can cause side effects like allergic reactions and can affect sleep in children under the age of 6. So, parents should avoid using OTC medicines for cough and cold in children under age 6.
  • In children from 6 – 12 years of age, these medicines should not be used for more than five days, and the risk of side effects is reduced in older children.

Decongestant nasal sprays cause the “rebound effect”. That means that if you overuse them (more than for a few days) it becomes less effective, and the congestion comes back as soon as its effects wear off.

2. Saline Nasal Sprays

Since they do not contain any medication, these are considered the safest to use when dealing with nasal congestion in children.

3. Steroid Nasal Sprays

In two separate studies, the effects of two nasal sprays were monitored. Researchers monitored their effect on the child’s growth. In each of these studies, 100 children were monitored for a year. The two treatments studied were Nasonex (mometasone) and Vancenase (beclomethasone).

  • There was no evidence of slow growth with the new treatment, Nasonex and it was found to be effective and safe, however, it should be used in the least possible dosage.
  • The older treatment called Vancenase might slightly slow the growth rate in some kids, however, most kids were not affected in any way.

How to Use a Nasal Spray on a Child?

Here are steps to follow to use a nasal spray on your child:

  • Blow your child’s nose to clear the mucus as much as you can.
  • Place your thumb at the bottom of the bottle and two fingers on top.
  • Block one nostril by pressing it by your fingertip.
  • Squeeze the pump in the other nostril and tell your child to inhale slowly.
  • Repeat to the other nostril.

[Read : Cold Medicine Alternatives For Your Baby]

Alternatives For Nasal Sprays to Relieve Nasal Congestion in Kids

child inhaling steam

You can try the following alternatives to relieve nasal congestion in kids.

1. Steam Inhalation

Try steam inhalation. It is a very effective way to combat a stuffy nose and clear it. Please be very careful so that you don’t end up burning the child. Make the child sit on your lap while the other person holds the steam vaporizer at an appropriate distance

2. Treat Their Cold

Focus on treating their cold as the nasal congestion will go away as soon as the cold is gone.

[Read : 10 Ways To Use Honey To Treat Cough And Cold In Children]

Are There Any Side Effects of Nasal Sprays?

The side effects depend on the type of nasal sprays you use. Different classes of sprays have different safety and side effects. While saline nasal sprays are the safest in terms of side effects, corticosteroid sprays may carry significant side effects. Having said that, some general side effects of nasal sprays for children include

  • Discomfort while the nasal spray is being squirted into the nose
  • Burning or tingling sensation as the spray enter the nasal cavities and the throat
  • Throat irritation
  • Weird taste in the mouth
  • Burning feeling in the nose, especially when the nose is already dry
  • Drying of the nose due to medication
  • Headaches
  • Nosebleeds

Your kid’s pediatrician will weigh the pros and cons before suggesting the medications. So, it is important to follow your doctors’ suggestions strictly in terms of continuing the medication and following the dosages seriously.

In the initial days of sickness, you can try the safe alternatives first. But if the congestion is severe and nothing else works, talk to your doctor about which nasal spray you should use.


1. Can I Use a Nasal Spray For My Baby?

Yes, you can. As long as your doctor has prescribed it. ti can help loosen tough mucus.

2. Are There Specific Nasal Sprays For Kids?

Yes, there are. There is a specific pediatric range for kids. Ensure you don’t use the adults range.

3. How Often Can I Use a Nasal Spray For My 6 Month Old?

A 6-month-old baby is too young for nasal sprays. Consult your doctor. They will suggest alternative remedies.

4. Do Nasal Sprays for Kids Contain Medicine?

No, not all sprays contain medicine. Saline sprays, for example, are alien water and help loosen up the thick mucus crust.

Read Also: Use of a Nebulizer and Its Side Effects by Dr. Srikanta J T

Dr. Srikanta J T, MBBS, Diploma in Child Health (DCH), Diplomate of National Board(DNB), Fellowship in Pediatric Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine(NUH, Singapore), Training in Interventional Pulmonology
Consultant - Paediatric Interventional Pulmonology, Allergy and Sleep Medicine, ASTER CMI Hospital
10 years of experience

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