The Rebound Effect of Nasal Treatments

Allergies, sinus infections, as well as the common flu are common causes of sinus congestion. Some essential oils, including eucalyptus and peppermint oils, help open the airways and ease congestion (Complementary and alternative interventions in asthma, allergy, and immunology) (Complementary therapy in allergic rhinitis)

However, medicated nasal sprays containing decongestants (such as oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine*) when used on a continuous basis may become habit-forming - leading to drug dependence (not addiction). According to the national Institute of Drug Addiction (Drug Dependence versus Addiction), there’s a difference between physical drug dependence and addiction. You’re physically dependent on a drug when skipping a dose causes withdrawal symptoms, such as congestion. The medicated nasal decongestants used for more than 3-5 days can cause the nasal surface to build up a tolerance which then leads to increasing nasal congestion known as the “rebound effect”. Along with that comes other symptoms including a bitter smell or taste, sneezing, runny nose and nasal irritation, including burning and stinging, but when used even longer they can be associated with major side effects, including a change in heart rate, tremors, unusual sweating or persistent nosebleeds (Effect of oxymetazoline nasal spray on intraocular pressure and retrobulbar hemodynamics)(Toxic Anterior Segment Syndrome)

Addiction is categorized by intense cravings for a substance and an inability to stop using despite facing negative consequences.

Natural essential oils ave been known to provide decongestant properties as commonly seen in aromatherapy techniques.  A person can try making a steam bath by placing a few oil drops in a bowl of warm water and breathing in the steam for a few minutes until the stuffiness and other symptoms subside. Alternately, a diffuser can fill the air with this essential oil. Otherwise, one can use Sinusol® Breath Easy which is conveniently portable that contains menthol and mint that has been consistently found to help opening up blocked sinuses due to menthol’s cooling effect (see testimonials). In addition peppermint essential oil impacts the mucus receptors in the nose that help to open the airways and clear mucus. Lab studies also show that peppermint oil may fight bacteria, one of the triggers of sinus congestion.

*(Pseudoephedrine has become more restricted in drug stores and is found behind the pharmacy counter.)