What do I need to know about intranasal corticosteroids?

When You Take Intranasal Corticosteroids Intranasal corticosteroids are a powerful medicine that keeps symptoms from starting.

  • They often work for people who can't get relief from traditional treatment.
  • Be patient. It may take several days before you see results.
  • They are only available by prescription.

How Intranasal Corticosteroids Work In some people, neither antihistamines used alone nor in combination with decongestants provide relief from nasal allergy symptoms. If this is you, intranasal corticosteroids may be the answer.


Corticosteroids are very potent treatments for nasal allergies. They block inflammation, which relieves nasal congestion and swelling. Only your doctor can prescribe them.

Although it may take several days before you see the results, intranasal corticosteroids are very effective. However, you need to follow the instructions carefully because overuse of these medications can cause problems in other areas of your body.

How do I use intranasal corticosteroids safely?

Because intranasal corticosteroids are such powerful medicines, be sure you understand what your doctor tells you about using them. (See What To Ask My Doctor About Medications.) Also, read all the instructions on the label that comes with the medicine, and use it only in the ways described there. If you have any questions, contact your doctor or talk with your pharmacist.

How do intranasal corticosteroids work?

Corticosteroids work by blocking inflammation and irritation of the nasal membranes. This helps prevent allergic symptoms from developing.

How do I take intranasal corticosteroids?

Intranasal corticosteroids come in drops, nasal sprays, or nasal inhalers. These delivery forms allow the medication to be applied directly inside your nose. Your doctor may lower your dose after you get relief. Unfortunately, intranasal corticosteroids won't help with the symptoms that affect your eyes, such as dryness or irritation.

What Your Doctor Can Do for Side Effects

If you're bothered by side effects, your doctor can often help by changing:

  • How much medication you take. Sometimes, reducing the dose can stop or minimize side effects. Or, your doctor may lower the dose and then raise it again more slowly.
  • When you take the medication. You may be able to cope with drowsiness or insomnia, for instance, by taking your medication in the evening or first thing in the morning.
  • How you take the medication. Taking your medication in smaller doses several times a day rather than in one dose can help. Taking it with food might eliminate side effects such as nausea.
  • The type of medication. A different medication may be able to stop your symptoms with fewer or less severe side effects.

Always talk with your doctor before changing how you take your medication.

Side effects in adults are minimal when intranasal corticosteroids are used as directed. Overuse can result in more serious side effects. Even when the medication is used correctly, however, there are a few possible - although infrequent - side effects, including:

  • headache
  • nervousness
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • diarrhea
  • nasal irritation - burning or stinging
  • taste or smell changes
  • blurred vision and other eye disturbances
  • ringing in the ear
  • nosebleeds
  • growth suppression in children

Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these.

What if my doctor prescribes oral or injectable corticosteroids?

If other medication fails, your doctor may prescribe oral or injectable corticosteroids. These can usually only be used for short periods of time until allergy symptoms are under control. Follow label instructions carefully. Report any unusual symptoms to your doctor immediately. The use of oral or injectable corticosteroids can result in serious side effects such as swelling, pain, infection, and flu-like symptoms.