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Which is Better for Mucus Clearance: Nasal Spray, Nasal Irrigation, or OPEP Device?

Which is Better for Mucus Clearance: Nasal Spray, Nasal Irrigation, or OPEP Device?

, by Aussie Pharma Direct, 10 min reading time

Whenever you're battling with the cold, allergies, flu, or anything of the likes, mucus becomes one of the most common nuisances, sticking around in your respiratory system. It acts as a sticky trap, capturing dust, allergens, and even harmful bacteria before they can enter our lungs. But sometimes, our body produces too much mucus or it becomes too thick and difficult to clear naturally. This can lead to congestion, coughing, and difficulty breathing. It's the persistent annoyance that clogs your nose, tickles your throat, and turns every cough into a symphony of phlegm. 

We often turn to various methods and even natural remedies to seek relief. Thankfully, there are various methods available to help facilitate mucus clearance and ease these uncomfortable symptoms. Three popular airway clearance devices and tools include nasal sprays, nasal irrigation, and the OPEP (Oscillating Positive Expiratory Pressure) devices. Each has its own unique approach, and choosing the right one can depend on individual needs and preferences.

We'll compare and contrast their effectiveness, ease of use, and suitability for different conditions, helping you understand which method might be most beneficial for your specific needs.

Nasal spray

Nasal sprays are a common over-the-counter remedy used to alleviate nasal congestion and promote mucus clearance. These convenient aerosol or pump-based products deliver a targeted dose of medication or saline solution directly into the nasal passages, providing quick relief from symptoms associated with colds, allergies, sinusitis, and other respiratory conditions.

How do nasal sprays work?

There are several types of nasal sprays available, each designed to address specific concerns and symptoms. The most common ones are:

  1. Saline sprays

Saline nasal sprays contain a sterile saline solution that helps to moisturise and soothe irritated nasal passages. They work by thinning out mucus, making it easier to clear from the nasal cavity. Saline sprays are gentle and safe for regular use, making them suitable for individuals of all ages, including children and pregnant women.

  1. Decongestant sprays

Decongestant nasal sprays contain active ingredients such as oxymetazoline or phenylephrine, which work by constricting the blood vessels in the nasal passages, reducing swelling and congestion. These sprays provide rapid relief from nasal congestion but should be used sparingly and for short periods to avoid dependency and rebound congestion.

  1. Steroid sprays

Steroid nasal sprays, also known as corticosteroid sprays, contain corticosteroid medications such as fluticasone or budesonide, which help to reduce inflammation in the nasal passages. They are effective in relieving symptoms of allergic rhinitis, such as nasal congestion, sneezing, and itching, and are often used as a long-term treatment option for chronic conditions like allergic rhinitis or nasal polyps.


  • Ease of use - Nasal sprays are easy to use and can be administered quickly and discreetly, making them a convenient option for on-the-go relief.
  • Quick relief - Many nasal sprays provide rapid relief from nasal congestion and other symptoms, allowing users to experience relief within minutes of application.
  • Targeted delivery - Nasal sprays deliver medication or saline solution directly to the nasal passages, ensuring maximum effectiveness with minimal systemic side effects.

Disadvantages and considerations

  • Dependency - Decongestant nasal sprays have the potential to cause dependency if used for more than a few days consecutively. Prolonged use can lead to rebound congestion, where nasal symptoms worsen once the medication is discontinued.
  • Irritation - Some individuals may experience irritation or dryness in the nasal passages with regular use of nasal sprays, particularly those containing decongestants or steroids.
  • Systemic effects - Although rare, nasal steroids can occasionally cause systemic side effects such as headache, nosebleeds, or thrush (yeast infection) in the mouth or throat.

Nasal irrigation

Nasal irrigation is a centuries-old practice that involves flushing out mucus and allergens from the nasal passages using a saline solution. This gentle yet effective technique can provide relief from nasal congestion, sinus pressure, and other symptoms associated with allergies, colds, and sinusitis. By rinsing out the nasal passages, nasal irrigation helps to hydrate the mucous membranes, thin out mucus, and remove irritants, bacteria, and allergens, thus promoting clearer breathing and overall sinus health.

How nasal irrigation works?

Common methods of nasal irrigation include:

  1. Saline rinses

Saline nasal rinses involve using a saline solution to irrigate the nasal passages, either with a specially designed saline rinse bottle or a homemade saline solution administered via a bulb syringe or squeeze bottle. The saline solution helps to moisten and thin out mucus, making it easier to clear from the nasal cavity.

  1. Neti pots

Neti pots are traditional Ayurvedic devices used for nasal irrigation. They consist of a small ceramic or plastic pot with a spout that is filled with saline solution. By tilting the head to one side and pouring the saline solution into one nostril, the liquid flows through the nasal passages and out the other nostril, flushing out mucus and debris.

  1. Squeeze bottles

Nasal irrigation squeeze bottles are designed specifically for nasal irrigation and feature a unique nozzle for easy insertion into the nostril. The user squeezes the bottle to release a gentle stream of saline solution into the nasal passages, flushing out mucus and allergens.


  • Effective mucus clearance - Nasal irrigation helps to flush out mucus and allergens from the nasal passages, providing relief from nasal congestion and promoting clearer breathing.
  • Sinus symptom relief - Nasal irrigation can alleviate symptoms such as sinus pressure, facial pain, and postnasal drip, making it a valuable tool for managing sinusitis and other sinus conditions.
  • Sinus health maintenance - Regular nasal irrigation can help maintain sinus health by keeping the nasal passages moist, reducing the risk of infection, and preventing the buildup of mucus and debris.

Disadvantages and considerations

  • Proper technique - It's essential to use proper technique when performing nasal irrigation to ensure effective and safe results. This includes using the correct concentration of saline solution, maintaining proper head positioning, and ensuring that the irrigation device is clean and sterile.
  • Risk of infection - There is a slight risk of infection associated with nasal irrigation if the equipment or saline solution is not properly sterilised. It's crucial to use distilled or sterile water and follow strict hygiene practices to minimise the risk of contamination.

OPEP device

OPEP devices, short for Oscillating Positive Expiratory Pressure devices, are innovative tools designed to assist in mucus clearance and improve respiratory function. These devices utilise a unique mechanism of action to mobilise and expel mucus from the lungs and airways, making them particularly beneficial for individuals with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, and asthma.

How do OPEP devices work?

The mechanism of action behind OPEP devices involves the application of oscillating positive pressure during exhalation. As the user exhales into the device, the pressure oscillations create vibrations within the airways, which help to loosen and mobilise mucus trapped in the lungs and air passages. This process facilitates the clearance of mucus, making it easier for the individual to cough up and expel from the respiratory system.


  • Improved lung function - By assisting in mucus clearance and enhancing airway patency, OPEP devices can help improve lung function and respiratory efficiency. This can lead to reduced breathlessness, improved exercise tolerance, and better overall quality of life for individuals with respiratory conditions.
  • Reduced risk of respiratory infections - Effective mucus clearance is essential for maintaining respiratory health and reducing the risk of respiratory infections. By facilitating the removal of mucus from the lungs and airways, OPEP devices can help reduce the likelihood of infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

Considerations and contraindications

  • Proper cleaning and maintenance - It's essential to clean and maintain OPEP devices according to the manufacturer's instructions to ensure their effectiveness and prevent the risk of contamination or infection. This may involve regular cleaning of the device components and replacement of disposable parts as needed.
  • Contraindications - OPEP devices may not be suitable for individuals with certain medical conditions or anatomical abnormalities, such as untreated pneumothorax (collapsed lung), severe respiratory distress, or recent surgery involving the chest or abdomen. It's important to consult with a healthcare professional before using an OPEP device to determine whether it is appropriate for your specific situation

So, which one is safer for you?

With the knowledge of nasal sprays, nasal irrigation, and OPEP devices, you might be wondering - which one is safer for you? The truth is, there's no single "safest" option, as it truly depends on your individual needs and health conditions.

Here's how you can determine the most suitable method for you:

  • Consider your symptoms - Are you experiencing congestion due to allergies, a cold, sinusitis, or something else? Each method can be effective for different causes.
  • Evaluate your medical history - Do you have any underlying health conditions like high blood pressure, glaucoma, or recent nasal surgery? Some methods might not be recommended for certain conditions.
  • Read product labels and instructions carefully - Each product has specific instructions and potential side effects. Make sure you understand them before using it.

Ultimately, consulting with a healthcare professional is the best way to determine which method is most suitable and safe for your individual needs. They can assess your specific situation, recommend the most appropriate approach, and address any questions or concerns you may have.

Where to buy these devices in Australia?

You can literally find nasal sprays, nasal irrigation devices, and OPEP devices in Australia at various locations, whether online or at physical pharmacies. 

For a reliable OPEP device, one popular brand in Australia is AirPhysio, offering different ranges tailored to various demographics such as Low Lung Capacity, Average Lung Capacity, Sports, and Kids

Read more: How to Choose the Right AirPhysio for You

You can find AirPhysio devices, along with a wide range of other healthcare products, right here on Aussie Pharma Direct.

Check out the AirPhysio range here.

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