Saline Nasal Spray Vs. Afrin

A congested nose, whether from allergies or a cold, is something easily fixed by simply reaching for the bottle of over-the-counter nasal spray on the nightstand. These medicines are easily accessed in the stores but attention should be paid to which type of spray, saline or non-saline, is purchased.


Afrin consists of ingredients such as oxymetazoline hydrochloride, glycol, chloride and salt. Saline nasal spray consists of salt and water. Both Afrin and saline nasal sprays are available over-the-counter in pharmacies and grocery stores and may be used by adults and children.


Afrin is a pump-spray liquid decongestant used to clear congested nasal passages. It works by constricting blood vessels and veins in the nose that have become enlarged, blocking the airway and creating that stuffy-nose feeling. Saline nasal spray is also a pump-spray liquid, used to treat dry nasal passages. Saline nasal spray is also used to treat the effects of abuse of Afrin (and other non-saline) nasal sprays. Both sprays provide a near-instant relief of stuffed-nose symptoms.


Both Afrin and saline nasal spray are applied by inserting the bottle tip inside the nose, squeezing the bottle, then sniffing deeply after the liquid reaches the nasal passages. Users may apply the drug while laying down or sitting upright.


Afrin is not indicated for long-term use (traditional use is three to five days) with a maximum of two uses per day. Overuse of Afrin can lead to "rebound congestion" - an effect in which the sufferer experiences severe nasal congestion after ceasing to use the drug after long periods of use. Saline spray may be used indefinitely.

Side Effects

Most common effects of Afrin include nasal irritation such as dryness, stinging or burning and sneezing. Less common effects may include irregular heartbeat, seizure or hallucinations. Afrin is counter-indicated with caffeine. There are no known side effects or interactions related to use of saline nasal spray.