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Otrivin is a decongestant that works directly inside the nasal passage. Congestion in the nose occurs when the blood vessels lining the nose become inflamed. It’s not simply a case of increased mucus in the nose. More information

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A blocked nose can be really uncomfortable and there are a whole host of possible causes. Things like Air pollution, colds, flu and allergies are all possible causes of nasal discomfort, increase pressure and have a negative effect on both your hearing and your sleep. This is because the mucous membranes in your nose swell and produce more mucus than usual. This inflammation is called rhinitis, rhinitis can be both allergic and non-allergic depending on the cause. Whatever the cause of your blocked nose, if it is making your life miserable you won’t want to simply wait for it to go away. 

What is Otrivin? 

Otrivin is a decongestant that works directly inside the nasal passage. Congestion in the nose occurs when the blood vessels lining the nose become inflamed. It’s not simply a case of increased mucus in the nose. Most decongestants will cause the blood vessels in the nose to shrink. With Otrivin this shrinking effect acts directly where it is needed as the application is direct. 

The active ingredient in Otrivin is called xylometazoline hydrochloride, when sprayed into the nose it causes the blood vessels to contract and narrow. This reduces the swelling helping the nose to feel clearer.  

Nasal sprays are often a better option than oral medication as they have fewer side effects and act directly where they are needed. 

Otrivin also contains sodium chloride or salt which helps to break down and thin the mucus in the nasal passages so that it drains away more easily, reducing the feeling of a stuffy, blocked nose and helping you to breathe freely once again. 

In addition to its decongestant properties, Otrivin has been created with a hydrating formula which is designed to soothe the nasal passages and help to relieve any irritation of the nasal lining. 

When is Otrivin used? 

Otrivin can be used in various forms by both children and adults to relieve the symptoms of a blocked nose and restore easy breathing. Otrivin for children should not be used for children under the age of 6. Saline only drops are available for younger children. 

Many Otrivin products are restricted for use by adults and children 12 years and over only.  This will be clearly stated on the packaging. Please ensure you check the leaflet and do not use and adult product on a child. 

Otrivin can be used for blocked noses caused by all sorts of problems for example: 

  • Nasal congestion (cold, blocked nose); 
  • Allergic rhinitis and recurring rhinitis including hayfever; 
  • Sinusitis. 

Otrivin provides very fast, effective relief, it can take as little as two minutes to start working and can alleviate your symptoms for up to 12 hours. This is why it is often preferred over oral medication to treat decongestion. 

There are various different types of Otrivin available, all have the same active ingredient, xylometazoline hydrochloride: 

Otrivin congestion relief spray (the original formula); 

  • Otrivin adult metered-dose spray; 
  • Otrivin adult metered-dose sinusitis spray; 
  • Otrivin allergy relief nasal spray; 
  • Otrivin adult nasal spray; 
  • Otrivin adult nasal drops; 
  • Otrivin child nasal drops. 

There is also an Otrivin spray that does not contain called xylometazoline hydrochloride but uses saltwater for a similar effect: 

  • Otrivin Natural nasal spray with eucalyptus. 

How do you use Otrivin? 

Otrivin is quick and easy to use. 

To avoid the risk of infection each bottle of Otrivin should only be used by one person. You should also discard the bottle 28 days after opening whether you have finished the product or not. 

To use the nasal drops: 

  • Before you start, ensure the nose is clear; 
  • Tilt head back; 
  • Gently squeeze 1 to 2 drops into each nostril; 
  • Resist the temptation to blow your nose straight away to give the solution time to work. 

To use the nasal spray: 

  • Ensure that the nose is clear before you start; 
  • Lean forward slightly and put the top in your nostril; 
  • Squeeze the bottle once and sniff at the same time; 
  • Remove the nozzle from your nostril before you release the squeeze.; 
  • Repeat for the other nostril; 
  • Resist the temptation to blow your nose straight away to give the solution time to work. 

What dosages are there? 

Otrivin contains 0.1% xylometazoline hydrochloride except for the child nasal drops which contain 0.05% xylometazoline hydrochloride. 

You should always follow the instructions of your doctor or pharmacist when it comes to taking any medication. If you are not sure then check with them.  

As a general guide, the nasal spray dose for adults and children over twelve is as follows: 

  • One to two sprays in each nostril, two to three times a day, for up to five days. 

For the nasal drops for adults and children over twelve: 

  • One to two drops in each nostril, two to three times a day, for up to five days. 

For the child nasal drops: 

  • One to two drops in each nostril, one to two times a day, for up to five days. 

Do not use Otrivin for more than five days in a row. If after five days your symptoms are still causing issues then consult a doctor for advice. If you use Otrivin for more than five days in a row it can cause a condition called rebound congestion, basically the worsening of your congestion as your body builds up a resistance to the medication. 

Do not use more than the recommended dose e.g. three doses in 24 hours for the nasal spray and two doses within 24 hours for the nasal drops. 

What are the side effects of Otrivin? 

As with all medication Otrivin comes with a warning of some side effects. Not everybody who uses Otrivin will experience them. 

The following side effects may occur occasionally when using Otrivin: 

  • Headaches; 
  • Nausea; 
  • A burning sensation in the nose and throat; 
  • A dry feeling inside the nasal passage; 
  • Local irritation or discomfort (inside the nasal passage); 
  • An allergic reaction (look out for swelling around the nose or mouth, shortness of breath and increased heart rate). 

Some small children may become restless or experience disturbed sleep when using Otrivin. If this occurs then you should stop using Otrivin. 

There is also a risk of heart problems like palpitations, especially if you already have an underlying heart condition. 

If any of the side effects become serious then please seek medical assistance. 

When shouldn’t you use Otrivin? 

Do not use Otrivin if you are allergic to xylometazoline hydrochloride, any of the other ingredients listed on the packet or indeed any type of decongestant. 

The main Otrivin spray should not be used for children under 12, use the children’s drops for children aged six to 12. Children under six should not be given the Otrivin drops. 

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding then you should consult a doctor or pharmacist before using Otrivin. 

If you have any of the following conditions then you will need to take special care if using Otrivin and ensure you have discussed this with a qualified medical professional. 

  • Diabetes mellitus; 
  • Hypertension; 
  • Glaucoma; 
  • An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism); 
  • A heart problem or circulatory disease; 
  • An enlarged prostate or adrenal gland. 

Do not use Otrivin if you have had recent nasal or neurosurgery. 

Do not use Otrivin for more than five days in a row as your body may adapt to the decongestion which can cause a condition called rebound congestion – basically a worsening of your nasal congestion. 

Does Otrivin interact with other medications? 

Some medicines may be affected by Otrivin, or some medicines may affect how well Otrivin works so it is always best to check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure any medication you are taking is ok. This includes herbal supplements and vitamins. 

In particular you should be wary of using other cold and flu remedies alongside Otrivin. 

Another type of medication that may cause issues are monoamine oxidase inhibitors or other types of antidepressant, including antidepressants that you can buy without a prescription. 

Where can you buy Otrivin? 

Otrivin can be bought from any reputable pharmacy, you can buy it wherever is most convenient for you. Order online for easy home delivery or local collection, pop into your local supermarket pharmacy or a pharmacy in town. 

Can I get Otrivin without a prescription? 

Yes. Otrivin is an over the counter medicine, meaning you can buy it without consulting a doctor, however you should always read the leaflet inside the package to ensure that the medicine is safe for you to use. If you are in any doubt you can chat to a pharmacist or make an appointment to talk to a doctor, particularly if you have or have had any of the conditions listed on the patient leaflet or are taking any other type of medication. 


EMC (2016). Otrivine Adult Nasal Spray - Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) - (emc). [online] Medicines.org.uk. Available at: https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/6155/pil [Accessed 6 Dec. 2019]. 

EMC (2016). Otrivine Child Nasal Drops - Summary of Product Characteristics (SmPC) - (emc). [online] Medicines.org.uk. Available at: https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/6156/smpc [Accessed 6 Dec. 2019]. 

GlaxoSmithKline Plc (2019). Otrivin | GSK. [online] Gsk.com. Available at: https://www.gsk.com/en-gb/products/our-consumer-healthcare-products/respiratory/otrivin/ [Accessed 6 Dec. 2019]. 

GlaxoSmithKline Plc (2019). Otrivine Product Range | Otrivine.co.uk. [online] Otrivine.co.uk. Available at: http://www.otrivine.co.uk/products [Accessed 6 Dec. 2019]. 

Hayes RN, K. (2019). Nasal Decongestants Overview and Side Effects. [online] Verywell Health. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-a-nasal-decongestant-1192176 [Accessed 6 Dec. 2019]. 

Hayes RN, K. (2019). What Is Rebound Congestion?. [online] Verywell Health. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-rebound-congestion-1192177 [Accessed 6 Dec. 2019]. 

NHS (2019). Non-allergic rhinitis. [online] nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/non-allergic-rhinitis/ [Accessed 6 Dec. 2019]. 

Assessed by:

Dr Imran Malik, General practitioner
Registration number: GMC: 4741365

Dr Imran Malik studied undergraduate medicine at King's College University in Central London and clinical studies at the prestigious King's College Hospital. He graduated with a MBBS degree in 2000 and went on to gain postgraduate memberships with the Royal Society of Medicine and also General Practice in 2006.