Afrin Vs. Nasonex: What Is The Difference?

In this article, our pharmacist discusses the difference between Nasonex (mometasone) and Afrin (oxymetazoline) for use in treating nasal congestion.

Afrin Vs. Nasonex: What Is The Difference?
Mar 15, 2018

Streamer asked

What is the difference between Afrin nasal spray and Nasonex? Can they be used together?


Nasonex Vs. AfrinAfrin (oxymetazoline) is a nasal decongestant spray while Nasonex (mometasone) is nasal corticosteriod. Both drugs work via different mechanisms and are used in different situations, as discussed below.

It is important to note that there is no interaction between Afrin and Nasonex and they may be used together if needed, as symptoms dictate.


Nasonex is a nasal corticosteroid that has potent anti-inflammatory effects when used intranasally. Many sources list nasal steroids as the first line option for the treatment of allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal passages). Nasal steroids are effective for other symptoms as well including nasal itching and sneezing.

One downside of using nasal steroids such as Nasonex for the treatment of congestion is that they typically do not provide immediate relief. The onset of action of Nasonex is about 6-12 hours, but generally need at least a few days of consistent use to provide noticeable relief, especially for more severe cases of nasal congestion.

Therefore, if your main symptom is nasal congestion, other drugs, such as Afrin, may be a more appropriate choice as it works much faster.

Nasonex is indicated for the treatment of symptoms associated with:

  • Seasonal or perennial allergic rhinitis 
  • Prophylaxis of seasonal allergic rhinitis
  • Nasal Polyps

Common side affects associated with Nasonex include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Rhinitits
  • Sinusitis


Afrin is extremely effective at providing quick, short-term relief of nasal congestion. It works directly in the nose, constricting the blood vessels in the nasal passages. This vasoconstriction promotes drainage, decreased inflammation and improves airflow. Once administered, you will notice relief as little as 10 seconds with effects lasting 4 to 12 hours. Unlike nasal steroids however, like Nasonex, Afrin generally has no effect on itching, sneezing, or a runny nose.

Afrin is indicated for the treatment of nasal congestion resulting from:  

  • Allergies 
  • Common cold
  • Hay fever

Afrin should only be used for a short duration of two to three days at a time. Using the medication longer than this can result in "rebound" congestion and worsening of the symptoms you were trying to treat. 

Possible other side effects of Afrin include:

  • Nasal irritation including burning and stinging
  • Sneezing
  • Rhinorrhea

Using Afrin With Nasonex

Both Afrin and Nasonex can be used together if needed as there is no interaction between the two medications. Nasonex is generally best to be used consistently, on a daily basis for best effects. Nasonex is also a better option for treating additional allergy symptoms as it is effective for itchy, watery eyes as well.

Often times, an acute condition (e.g. sinusitis) can exacerbate nasal congestion which may necessitate the use of a quick acting nasal decongestant, like Afrin.


  • For quick relief of nasal congestion, use Afrin nasal spray.
  • Be sure not to use Afrin for longer than 2 to 3 days in a row to prevent rebound congestion.
  • For long term use, Nasonex nasal spray is the better option for congestion and allergy symptoms.
  • Afrin and Nasonex can be used together as needed.

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