Afrin nasal spray contains a decongestant called Oxymetazoline which works to constrict blood vessels in nasal tissue. Zicam, Mucinex, and Vicks also works in similar manner.
When a substance constricts blood vessels, the tissue can sometimes develop a tolerance and demand more drug to achieve the same effect over time. If this occurs too long, more swelling can result leading to “rebound redness” or “rebound swelling.”
All these products are labeled with a warning to not use more than three days at a time, and to not exceed two doses in any 24-hour period. However, it is easy for patients to use it more often and even abuse these medications. The tissues can find these medications addictive: meaning they need them to continue to function normally.
Overuse of decongestant sprays can cause blood vessels to constrict enough that some ENT doctors have seen holes in the septum and other signs of tissue damage. Some have even seen infections or sinus pain, or persistent inflammation and congestion partly from excessive Afrin use.
Additionally, though less common, long-term and frequent use of Afrin and other decongestants can also raise your blood pressure throughout your body, as these medications constriction of blood vessels everywhere.
A better alternative for some patients might be natural treatments, such as Xlear or other natural options below. Either way, talk to your MD if your nasal passages continue to be swollen.