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Nasal Spray in Carry-On Baggage: Allowed?

Nasal Spray in Carry-On Baggage


In an aeroplane, many passengers struggle with pressure equalisation. To counteract this evil, many people resort to nasal spray and nose drops.

But what are the rules for (decongestant) nasal spray and nose drops in carry-on baggage? What needs to be considered in particular and what are the alternatives, if any?


Is it allowed to carry nasal spray in your carry-on baggage?

Nasal spray is permitted in carry-on baggage. However, you must respect the regulations for liquids in hand luggage. Essentially, this regulation states that liquids in carry-on baggage may only be transported in containers with a maximum capacity of 100 millilitres each.

These containers must be packed in a transparent zip bag, which must not contain more than 1 litre of liquid in total.

Since the filling quantity of nasal spray is in most cases between 10 and 20 ml and almost never more than 100 ml per container, the transport in carry-on baggage is generally permitted and not causing any trouble. The same also applies to nose drops.



Is there a limit for nasal spray in carry-on baggage?

Within the regulations for liquids in hand luggage, you may take as much nasal spray as you wish with you on your journey.


Nasal spray or nose drops (for use in an aircraft)?

Whether you use nasal spray or nasal drops (on the plane) does not make a significant difference, as both usually have the same active ingredients (e.g. sympathomimetics such as xylometazoline or oxymetazoline).

When exactly nasal spray is recommended and when nose drops are to be prefered is best discussed with your doctor. For air travel, however, you can usually use both without hesitation.

If you can believe the experience reports of nasal spray/nose drops enthusiasts on the Internet, many report that you feel a burning sensation in your nose with nasal spray. This does not seem to be the case with nose drops.

Therefore, it seems that nasal drops are better suited for people with sensitive noses.

I have personally only ever used nasal spray and have had no problems with it up so far, so I am sticking with them for the moment.


At what time should you use the spray (drop) during the flight?

Shortly before take-off and landing. On long-distance flights, you can also help with the nasal spray in between, if necessary.

However, the problems with the pressure compensation should be kept within limits, since the changes of the air pressure after reaching the desired cruising altitude are usually relatively small and a higher pressure difference only builds up again with the landing.


Nasal spray/drops for (small) children and babies travelling by air?

Of course, not only adults struggle with pressure equalisation on air travel. Are you also allowed to administer nasal spray or drops to your children or even babies? Mainly yes, but you should definitely discuss this with your attending doctor. 

He can recommend you a suitable nasal spray for your children, because it may differ from the nasal spray that is administered to adults (substances, concentration, etc.).

Also, there are also other, safer possibilities for pressure equalisation for children (and possibly also for you!). So drinking enough can also help to defeat pressure equalisation.

Nasal spray is also available for small children.

However, there are other means on air travel to promote pressure equalisation, such as yawning, sucking sweets, swallowing and drinking enough, which for (small) children may be better than a nasal spray/nose drops.

Babies and toddlers should be given a drink when taking off and landing. If your (small) children are in good health and do not suffer from a cold, then it is often not necessary to use a nasal spray or nose drops.

And if you do, consult, as mentioned above, your doctor of confidence, to make sure that your children get the right medication.


Do I need a certificate for the transport of nasal spray?

Medications that you urgently need for the flight are exempt from the liquid rule in hand luggage and may therefore in principle be carried in hand luggage. But do you need a certificate for this?

If you carry prescription nasal spray or nose drops in your carry-on baggage, then you should have a medical certificate showing that you are dependent on this product (during the flight!).

In this case, the nasal spray/nasal drops will not be subject to the liquid rule (Exception for liquid medication that is urgently needed during the flight).

A sample for such a medical certificate can be found at the ADAC. When issuing the document, make sure that the stamp of the attending physician appears on the form.

This medical certificate is best carried in your hand luggage in English. It is also best to bring the original packaging with you so that you can see at a glance exactly which nose drops are involved and which active ingredients the spray contains.

If it is a matter of non-prescription nose drops, then the transport in hand luggage is okay even without a certificate, as long as the container does not violate the 100 ml liquid rule.

However, this should not be an issue anyway, as the capacity of conventional nose drops and nasal spray is rather small after all (usually between 10-30 ml per container).


Can nasal spray be addictive?

Yes, it can.

Anyone who needs nasal spray regularly runs the risk of becoming dependent on it because with prolonged use the mucous membranes get used to the nasal spray and sooner or later a so-called rebound phenomenon occurs in which the nasal mucous membrane swells excessively as soon as the effect of the nasal spray subsides. 

Therefore, it is not a good idea to use nasal spray permanently.

It is therefore recommended that you stop using the nasal spray after a few days. However, if you are travelling by plane and have a cold, such a nasal spray can be useful and sensible for targeted use.

If, however, you are only concerned with pressure equalisation in the aeroplane, then there are other possibilities than nasal spray, to drive away the annoying evil or not to let it come about at all: Drink enough, swallow and chew (chewing gum).

If you are already dependent on nasal spray, then the following possibilities are available to get away from nasal spray addiction:

  • Change from conventional nasal spray to children’s nasal spray to reduce the dose.
  • Another possibility is to wean a nostril first.
  • As soon as you have reduced the dose (e.g. by using children’s nasal spray), gradually try to switch to sea salt spray or nasal oil instead of using conventional nasal spray.


What else is there for pressure equalisation (ear pain)?

Nasal spray is not the only miracle cure in the fight against ear pain and insufficient pressure balance. For example, there are Sanohra earplugs explicitly designed for air travel.

Sanohra fly are pressure-regulating earplugs that prevent ear pain during take-off and landing. Sanohra also points out that ordinary noise earplugs for flight purposes would be useless, as they could not protect you from (rapid) changes in air pressure.

By the way, Sanohra fly is also available for children, so the little passengers should use the children’s version of the earplugs to protect themselves optimally against ear pain and air pressure fluctuations.


What about nasal spray in checked luggage?

It is totally fine to bring nasal spray in checked luggage. The choice, whether you are actually transporting the nasal spray in checked luggage or in carry-on baggage should be based upon the importance that the nasal spray has to you.

The golden rule is here: Store all important and vital medicines in your hand luggage, because it happens every now and then that checked baggage is lost during the journey.