Rhinitis medicamentosa


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“Rhinitis medicamentosa” results in a blocked nose. Also know as rebound rhinitis, it is caused by regular use of decongestant/unblocking nasal sprays. There are many brands (eg. Sinex, Drixine, Vicks) which are commonly used to treat the blocked noses resulting from infection. These sprays usually unblock the nose within 5 minutes. But if a person keeps using these sprays, the blocked nose worsens and stays that way as long as the sprays are used. Ongoing use can also increase the risk of sinus infections.


This condition is reversible. Treatment involves using nasal saline sprays to soothe the nose, treating the underlying condition (eg. allergy) and gradually withdrawal of the decongestant spray, generally one nostril at a time. For example, one might allow a person to use the decongestant spray in the right nostril only but stop on the left. The left nostril will block up but generally becomes clear after 2 weeks. The one can stop the decongestant spray on the right side as well.

A similar condition called “conjunctivitis medicamentosa” can occur from overuse of eyedrops containing medication that makes red eyes go white by contracting eyeball blood vessels. The eyes end up being red all the time unless the eyedrops are used frequently. The treatment is much the same; stop the eyedrops and maybe use lubricant eyedrops to soothe the eyes.

Last reviewed 10 April 2020