Flonase vs. Afrin

Head-to-head comparisons of medication uses, side effects, ratings, and more.

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Relieves allergy symptoms. Flonase (Fluticasone) is a good first-choice medicine for treating a runny or stuffy nose caused by allergies, and it's cheaper than some alternatives.Clears your sinuses. Afrin (Oxymetazoline) clears stuffy noses well, but don't use it for more than 3 days in a row or your congestion could get worse.
How it works
Flonase (Fluticasone) is a nasal steroid. It works directly in your nose to reduce swelling and inflammation caused by allergies.Afrin (Oxymetazoline) is a nasal decongestant. It reduces swelling in your nose to make breathing easier.
Type of medication
Prescription or OTC
DecongestantPrescription or OTC
Available as
  • Nasal spray
  • Nasal spray
Used for (click to learn more)
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Reviews & ratings
Button Group. All currently active
Button Group. All currently active
Reviews for Flonase (Fluticasone)
of people say Flonase (Fluticasone) is worth it
say it works well
say it's a big hassle
Reviews for Afrin (Oxymetazoline)
-1% vs. Flonase (Fluticasone)
+3% vs. Flonase (Fluticasone)
-5% vs. Flonase (Fluticasone)
Side effects
  • Asthma symptoms 4%
  • Nausea/vomiting 3%
  • Nosebleed 2%
  • Headache 1%
  • Cough 1%
  • Sore throat 1%
More Flonase side effects »

We haven’t found good data for Afrin side effects.

FDA side effect reports for Afrin »
Risk factors for serious side effects
  • Switching from oral or injectable steroids to inhaled, especially if used long term
  • Using other inhaled steroids with Flonase (Fluticasone)
    • Long-term use
    • Taking more than recommended dose
    • Switching from oral or injectable steroids to inhaled, especially if used long term
    • Using other inhaled steroids with Flonase (Fluticasone)
    • Long-term use
    • Exposure to immunizable diseases (chickenpox and measles)
    • Exposure to tuberculosis
    • Surgery or trauma to the nose or sinuses
    • Long-term use
    Detailed Flonase (Fluticasone) risks & warnings »
    • Using Afrin (Oxymetazoline) for more than 3 days
    • Women of childbearing age
    Detailed Afrin (Oxymetazoline) risks & warnings »
    Pregnancy category
    CFDA pregnancy category (Weigh risks vs. benefits)

    Research studies with animals found harmful effects on unborn babies. It hasn’t been properly studied in humans. The benefits might outweigh the risks even if you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor.

    See the FDA package insert
    NFDA pregnancy category (Unknown)

    The FDA hasn’t classified this medicine’s effects on unborn babies. Talk with your doctor about this medicine if you’re pregnant or planning on it.

    See the FDA package insert
    No specific alcohol-related info.No specific alcohol-related info.
    No specific food-related info.No specific food-related info.
    Kidneys and liver
    No specific kidneys and liver-related info.No specific kidneys and liver-related info.
    No specific sex-related info.No specific sex-related info.
    No specific sleep-related info.No specific sleep-related info.
    No specific weight-related info.No specific weight-related info.
    Upsides and benefits
    • First-choice medication for treating runny and stuffy noses caused by allergies. It works by reducing inflammation in the nose.
    • Because it's used directly where the inflammation is happening, it has fewer side effects than oral steroids do and has a lower chance of causing withdrawal symptoms once the medication is stopped.
    • Can be used as needed to help control symptoms in people age 13 years or older.
    • Available as a generic medication.
    • It works right away and each dose provides relief for up to 12 hours.
    • Can use for nasal congestion caused by colds and allergies.
    • It only affects your nose, so there aren't too many other side effects.
    • Available as a nasal spray and a nasal mist.
    Downsides and risks
    • Flonase (Fluticasone) doesn't have a counter on it, so it can be hard to remember how many sprays are left (each bottle has 120 sprays).
    • Needs to be primed (pressed/pumped until a fine spray appears) up to six times prior to using it for the first time, or if you haven't used it in 2 weeks.
    • Since the medicine in Flonase (Fluticasone) is a steroid, it can slow down your healing process if you've hurt your nose or had nose surgery.
    • Afrin (Oxymetazoline), like all other sprays used for stuffy noses, can make your congestion worse if you use it for more than 3 or 4 days in a row (called rebound-congestion).
    • Can cause temporary stinging, burning, or dryness in your nose.
    • Can't be used for kids younger than 6 years old.
    Tips from our pharmacists for people taking the medication
    • It can take several days for Flonase (Fluticasone) to start working fully.
    • Don't take more of it than was prescribed for you.
    • Blow your nose before using Flonase (Fluticasone).
    • Can cause thrush (a fungal infection) inside the nose and throat.
    • Can also cause a headache, sore throat, or nosebleeds.
    • Use 2 to 3 sprays in each nostril every 10 to 12 hours. Don't use Afrin (Oxymetazoline) more than two times a day.
    • Keep your head upright and don't tilt it back when spraying Afrin (Oxymetazoline) into your nose.
    • Breathe in with quick sniffs while spraying and wait a few minutes before blowing your nose.
    • Don't use Afrin (Oxymetazoline) for more than 3 days in a row since it can worsen your congestion after a few days of use.
    Learn more
    More about FlonaseSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert
    More about AfrinSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert