Steroid nasal sprays, also called corticosteroid nasal sprays, are anti-inflammatory medicines that you spray into your nose.
Some steroid nasal sprays are available to buy from pharmacies and shops, while others are only available on prescription. Steroid nasal drops are also available.
Common examples include beclometasone, budesonide, fluticasone and mometasone.
This page covers:
How and when to use them
Using them with other medicines, food or alcohol
Who can use them
How they work
Steroid nasal sprays can be used as a long-term treatment or just when they're needed.
For hay fever, it's best use them from a week or two before you think your symptoms will start, as they can take a few days to work.
The leaflet that comes with your spray should explain how to use it and how often. Ask a pharmacist or your doctor if you're not sure.
It's important to use your spray regularly, even if you're feeling better. It will only help if it's used every day.
If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it's nearly time for your next dose, skip the one you missed.
Don't take a double dose to make up for a forgotten one.
Accidentally using too much steroid nasal spray is unlikely to be harmful if it's a one-off. Speak to a pharmacist or your doctor if you're worried.
Using a steroid nasal spray too much over a long period can make you more likely to get side effects.
If you bought a steroid nasal spray from a pharmacy or shop, stop using it when you think you no longer need it. Don't use it continuously for more than a month without speaking to your doctor.
If you're taking a prescription spray, don't stop using it unless advised to by your doctor. You may need to reduce your dose gradually.
Steroid nasal sprays don't usually cause any significant side effects if used correctly and at normal doses.
Side effects can include:
If you're taking a high dose for a long time, there's also a small chance you could get some of the side effects associated with steroid tablets , such as increased appetite, mood changes and difficulty sleeping .
You can report any suspected side effect to a UK safety scheme.
Some medicines can interfere with the way steroid nasal sprays work, although this is uncommon.
Check the leaflet that comes with your spray to see if it could be affected by other medicines. Ask a pharmacist or your doctor if you're unsure.
You can usually drink alcohol while using a steroid nasal spray and you don't normally need to avoid any particular foods.
Most people can use steroid nasal sprays.
Ask a pharmacist or doctor for advice before using one if you:
Steroid nasal sprays are normally safe to use while breastfeeding and during pregnancy, but it's a good idea to get medical advice first.
Steroids are a man-made version of hormones normally produced by the adrenal glands (two small glands found above the kidneys).
When sprayed into the nose, steroids reduce inflammation (swelling).
This can help relieve symptoms such as sneezing and a runny or blocked nose. It can also help to reduce the size of any swellings (such as polyps) in your nose.
Steroid nasal sprays are different to the anabolic steroids used by athletes and body builders to improve their performance.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.