January 16, 2015

Actress Kaley Cuoco Reveals Afrin Nasal Spray Addiction

Image by Tabercil of Wikipedia
Actress Kaley Cuoco of Big Bang Theory fame revealed that she was addicted to Afrin nasal decongestant spray for years which ultimately made necessary her recent sinus surgery.

This confession was made during Ellen Degeneres talk show Jan 2015.
“I was actually really addicted to nose spray. Like, Afrin. Like, for years... At awards shows I would have to pick out the right clutch so I could fit my Afrin in it, and I’d be under the table snorting it. I’m surprised there are no photos... I couldn’t get enough. It was such a problem that I ruined my sinus, so I had to get it fixed. I actually made it completely worse — and [my doctor] said I had to stop.”
Afrin and other related nasal decongestant sprays are popular over-the-counter nasal sprays to treat nasal congestion as well as nasal obstruction due to sinusitis, upper respiratory infections, allergies, etc. Any nasal sprays containing phenylephrine, neo-synephrine, oxymetazoline, and xylometazoline (look under the active ingredients) are considered nasal decongestants.

These sprays contain a potent vasoconstrictor active ingredient which in essence reduces the blood flow to a person's nose after spray use resulting in a decrease in edema of the nasal lining. This medication is perfectly safe and very effective to use but only when used as directed. What many people fail to realize, unfortunately, is that you are not supposed to use the spray more often than every 12 hours and for no longer than 3 - 5 days.

Indeed, the directions on the box/bottle state (Example for Afrin):
"Do not use for longer than 3 to 5 days. Longer use could cause damage to your nasal tissue and lead to chronic congestion. If your symptoms do not improve, see your doctor. 
What exactly happens after 3 - 5 days of use and what is meant by "damage"?

To explain, I like to use the analogy of a tourniquet on a leg.

Each time afrin is sprayed into the nose, the medication causes the blood vessels to squeeze shut, just like a tourniquet to a leg squeezes shut the blood flow to the foot. Fortunately, the medication effects only lasts about 12 hours before the "chemical tourniquet" wears off.

What happens after more frequent and longer use is that the nose slowly starts to starve of oxygen and nutrients. Imagine placing a tourniquet on a leg every 12 hours for more than 5 days. Eventually, the foot is not going to be very healthy deprived of consistent blood flow resulting in edema and potentially even physical damage.

Read more about afrin addiction here as well as how to treat.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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