Most nasal sprays contain Oxymetazoline hydrochloride which was developed from xylometazoline at E. Merck Darmastadt by Fruhstorfer in 1961. Nasal sprays became over-the-counter drugs in 1975 after initial success as prescription medications.
The active ingredient, Oxymetazoline hydrochloride is classified as a topical decongestant.
Oxymetazoline works by constricting blood vessels in the nasal tissues which clears up the nasal pathways, allowing one to breathe through his or her nose. It is highly recommended oxymetazoline only be used for a short period of time, usually three to five days, as tolerance and dependence may develop.
Oxymetazoline is used to relieve congestion associated with allergies, hay fever, sinus irritation, and the common cold. It may also be used for a nose bleed and even eye redness where it is marketed as Visine L.R.
When oxymetazoline is used as an eye drop, a short period of stinging may occur. When used nasally there may be an increase in nasal discharge, sneezing, dry nasal passageways and temporary burning. Oxymetazoline used in the eyes or nose can also cause allergic reactions.
Side Effects Include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Tightness in chest
- Swelling of mouth, face, lips or tongue
Drugs that are similar to oxymetazoline include other decongestants such as phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine, levo-methamphetamine and naphazoline, among others.
Oxymetazoline provides one with quick and powerful relief of symptoms which makes it a perfect candidate for addiction. Although the drug does not have a recreational potential, addiction to the nasal clearing effects is common. Overuse can cause rebound congestion and create a vicious cycle of use.
When the drug is used past its three to five day recommended time period, the spray can cause nasal linings to swell up again even if the original cause of stuffy nose is no longer present. A tolerance to the drugs medicinal effect may build, causing the user to use more and more of it for continued relief. Doctors call nasal trouble that is caused more by the treatment than the original irritant rhinitis medicamentosa, a term coined in 1946.
Withdrawal from oxymetazoline can be a grueling process. Rebound congestion is bound to occur and some patients have success weaning themselves off the medication or even ceasing use one nostril at a time. Other patients have to withstand a week of uncomfortable congestion before the body heals and clears up on its own which makes relapse on the spray common.
Overdose on oxymetazoline is dangerous and can cause a variety of symptoms.
Overdose Symptoms Include:
- Severe drowsiness
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Decreased breathing
Overdoses are more likely to cause problems if the medication was ingested by mouth. Medical attention should be sought out immediately if an overdose is suspected.