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Budesonide nasal spray - Brand names: Rhinocort Aqua, Benocort

On this page

  1. About budesonide
  2. Key facts
  3. Who can and cannot use budesonide nasal spray
  4. How and when to use it
  5. Side effects
  6. How to cope with side effects
  7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding
  8. Cautions with other medicines
  9. Common questions

1. About budesonide

Budesonide nasal (nose) spray is used to treat cold-like symptoms caused by allergic rhinitis. This is an inflammation of the inside of your nose that can be brought on by hay fever. It is also used to reduce swelling and shrink nasal polyps.

Budesonide is a type of medicine called a steroid (or corticosteroid). Corticosteroids are a copy of a substance your body makes naturally. They are not the same as anabolic steroids.

Budesonide nasal spray is available on prescription for adults and children. Adults can buy it from pharmacies and supermarkets.

It can also be used to treat other conditions. Read about:

2. Key facts

  • You need to use budesonide nasal spray regularly for it to work.
  • It works by reducing swelling and irritation in your nose.
  • The most common side effects are sneezing, nosebleeds and a dry or sore nose.
  • Do not give this nasal spray to children under the age of 6 years (unless their doctor has prescribed it).
  • If you're pregnant, speak to your doctor or a pharmacist before buying budesonide nasal spray at a pharmacy or supermarket.

3. Who can and cannot use budesonide nasal spray

Most adults and children aged 6 years and over can use budesonide nasal spray. Occasionally a specialist may prescribe it for a younger child.

Budesonide is not suitable for some people. To make sure this nasal spray is safe for you, tell your doctor if you:

  • are allergic to budesonide or any other medicines
  • are taking or have recently taken other steroid medicines
  • have ever had nose surgery or get heavy or frequent nosebleeds
  • have an infection in your nose or eyes
  • are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • have ever had TB (tuberculosis)
  • have liver problems
  • have ever had glaucoma or cataracts

4. How and when to use it

Budesonide nasal spray needs to be used regularly for it to work.

You'll generally use the spray once or twice a day (once in the morning and once at night). The usual dose is 1 or 2 sprays into each nostril.

Follow the instructions that come with your nasal spray. Do not use more than the maximum number of sprays in 24 hours.

If you're using a new bottle, it will not work the first time you press the spray. Pump the spray a few times until a fine mist comes out. You'll also need to do this if you have not used the bottle for a few days.

Gently shake the bottle and remove the cap.

  1. Blow your nose gently.
  2. Close 1 nostril by pressing your finger against the side of your nose.
  3. Bend your head forward slightly and carefully put the nozzle into your other nostril.
  4. Slowly breathe in through your nose and with your fingers press down on the widest part of the nozzle to squirt the spray once into your nostril.
  5. Breathe out through your mouth.
  6. Follow steps 3 and 4 again to squirt a second spray into the same nostril if you need it.

Repeat the process with the other nostril, if you need it.

After using your spray, wipe the nozzle with a clean tissue and replace the cap.

Will my dose go up or down?

Once your symptoms are under control, you'll be able to use your nasal spray less often. For example, you might go from using 2 sprays to just 1 spray in each nostril in the morning.

If you bought a budesonide nasal spray from a pharmacy, stop using it when you think you no longer need it. Ask your pharmacist for advice if you're not sure when to stop. Do not use it continuously for more than 3 months without speaking to your doctor.

If your symptoms get worse after reducing your dose, you may want to increase it again.

If you have budesonide nasal spray on prescription, your doctor will tell you how often to use the nasal spray and when to change your dose.

What if I forget to use it?

If you forget to use a dose, use it as soon as you remember. Unless it's almost time for your next dose, in which case skip the missed dose and take your next one as usual.

Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten dose.

If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.

What if I use too much?

Using too much budesonide nasal spray by accident is unlikely to harm you.

5. Side effects

Like all medicines, budesonide can cause side effects although not everyone gets them.

With budesonide nasal spray, very little medicine is absorbed into the rest of the body, so it's not likely to give you serious side effects.

Common side effects

These common side effects can happen in more than 1 in 100 people.

Keep taking the medicine but talk to your doctor if these side effects bother you or do not go away:

  • sneezing
  • dry or sore nose, or nosebleeds
  • dry or sore throat
  • unpleasant taste or smell

Serious side effects

Very few people have serious side effects when using budesonide nasal spray.

You are more likely to have a serious side effect if you use budesonide for more than a few months or take a high dose.

Tell a doctor straight away if you get:

  • damage to your nose or sores inside your nose
  • changes in your eyesight, such as blurred vision or a cloudy lens in the eye – these can be signs of increased pressure in your eyes (glaucoma) or a cataract

Serious allergic reaction

It happens rarely but it is possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to budesonide.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • you're wheezing
  • you get tightness in the chest or throat
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

You could be having a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.

These are not all the side effects of budesonide. For a full list see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.


You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.

6. How to cope with side effects

What to do about:

  • sneezing – this will usually settle down as you get used to the medicine.
  • dry or sore nose, or nosebleeds – stop using your nasal spray for a few days, then start again. Speak to your doctor or a pharmacist if these side effects do not go away.
  • dry or sore throat – rinsing your mouth out with water or brushing your teeth after you use your nasal spray may help. If this is no better after 7 days ask your doctor for advice.
  • unpleasant taste or smell – rinse your mouth with water or have a drink of water after you use your nasal spray.

7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Budesonide and pregnancy

There's no clear evidence that budesonide will harm your baby. For safety your doctor will only prescribe budesonide in pregnancy if the benefits outweigh the risks. They will prescribe the lowest dose that works for you.

Speak to your doctor or a pharmacist before buying budesonide nasal spray at a pharmacy or supermarket.

For more information about how using a steroid nasal spray might affect you and your baby during pregnancy, read this leaflet on treating allergic rhinitis on the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPs) website.

Budesonide and breastfeeding

It's generally OK to use budesonide while breastfeeding.

However always check with your doctor or a pharmacist first. Your baby may need extra monitoring if you use a high dose of the nasal spray.

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your doctor if you're:

  • trying to get pregnant
  • pregnant
  • breastfeeding

8. Cautions with other medicines

Some medicines and budesonide interfere with each other and this can increase your chances of side effects. It may mean changing your budesonide dose.

Check with a pharmacist or your doctor if you're taking:

  • medicines used to treat HIV such as ritonavir or cobicistat
  • antifungal medicines such as ketoconazole or itraconazole
  • other medicines that contain steroids such as eczema creams, asthma inhalers, tablets, injections, eye or nose drops, and other nasal sprays

Mixing budesonide with herbal remedies and supplements

There's very little information about taking herbal remedies and supplements together with budesonide. Ask a pharmacist for advice.


Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.

9. Common questions

How does it work?

Budesonide is a steroid (corticosteroid) medicine.

Steroids closely copy the effects of natural hormones produced in your adrenal glands. These are 2 small glands found above the kidneys.

Budesonide works on your immune system to reduce the symptoms of inflammatory conditions and allergic reactions such as redness, swelling and itching.

The nasal spray reduces swelling and mucus in your nose. It can take a little longer to work than antihistamine sprays but the effects last for longer.

If you are using it to treat nasal polyps, budesonide will reduce swelling and irritation of the lining of your nose. This can make the polyps shrink.

How long does it take to work?

You will not notice your symptoms improve straight away when you first start using budesonide nasal spray. It takes a few days for budesonide to start working but can take several weeks to reach its full effect.

Tell your doctor if you do not feel any better after using the spray for 2 weeks.

If you use the spray for hay fever, it is best to start using it at least a couple of weeks before the hay fever season starts. Many people notice they get symptoms at about the same time each year.

If you use the spray for nasal polyps, it can take 1 to 2 months for your symptoms to improve.

How long will I use it for?

If you buy budesonide nasal spray from a pharmacy or supermarket, check the leaflet that comes with the medicine. This will tell you how long you can use it for. You can use it for up to 3 months but tell your doctor if you feel no better after using it for 2 weeks.

If you are prescribed budesonide, your doctor may advise you use it for longer.

Is it safe to use budesonide for a long time?

Budesonide is unlikely to have any lasting harmful effects if you follow the instructions that come with your medicine, or use it as your doctor recommends.

However, children and teenagers need to have their height and weight monitored carefully if they're using high doses of a steroid nasal spray like budesonide for a long time. This is to make sure the steroid is not affecting their growth.

The nasal spray delivers a small amount of steroid medicine exactly where you need it. This limits the amount of steroid reaching the rest of your body. It also keeps the risk of side effects as low as possible.

Can I drink alcohol with it?

Yes, you can drink alcohol with budesonide.

Will it affect my fertility?

There is no clear evidence to suggest that using budesonide will reduce fertility in either men or women.

However, speak to a pharmacist or your doctor if you are trying to get pregnant.

Will it affect my contraception?

Budesonide does not affect any type of contraception, including the combined pill and emergency contraception.

Can I drive or ride a bike?

For most people, using budesonide nasal spray will not affect their ability to drive a car or cycle.

Page last reviewed: 12 June 2020
Next review due: 12 June 2023