A Guide to Nasal Dilators

Many people snore due to a blocked nose. There are several options when it comes to opening your nasal passageways to stop your snoring. One popular option is to use a nasal dilator.

Nasal dilators work by mechanically opening your nasal passages, decreasing the resistance to incoming air without resorting to medication. There are two main types of nasal dilators: external and internal.

External dilators pull from the outside, whereas internal devices push from the inside.

Breathing through your nose reduces snoring

It’s all too easy to get a blocked nose and snore as a result. Allergies and infections can come on suddenly, ruining your breathing and sleep. Long-term, chronic problems can arise from pollution, medication, hormones and even your nose-structure.

Having a blocked nose can force you to breathe through your mouth, massively increasing your chances of snoring as your jaw and tongue compress the airway. If you breathe through a partially blocked nose, this can also cause snoring due to the increased pressure and suction forces created [1].

Advantages over other remedies

“Big snorer for decades. SnoreLab helped me analyze patterns and review remedies. I use a nasal dilator now … no more snoring!”

So why choose nasal dilators over other nasal treatments? There are other ways to open your nose and reduce snoring such as using nasal sprays. Nasal dilators, both internal and external have distinct advantages over other methods. Nasal dilators:

  • Are non-medicated, therefore are suitable for more people
  • Provide instantaneous relief
  • Are non-invasive
  • Do not become less effective with continued use
  • Have no side-effects (some nasal sprays have been known cause nosebleeds, stinging sensations and withdrawal)

External nasal dilators

External nasal dilators are also known as nasal strips. You may recognize them from professional sport as they are popular with athletes looking to improve their breathing efficiency.

There is limited evidence to suggest that they help athletes perform better. However, there is a wealth of scientific study related to snoring, and the verdict is that external nasal dilators can really reduce your snoring if you have a blocked nose.

How do they work?

These simple devices open up your nasal passageways by sticking to the external surface of your nose (unlike internal nasal dilators which are inserted into the nostrils).

Nasal strips look and behave like a plaster. They have a gentle adhesive that sticks to the outside of your nose just above the nostrils.

The parallel bands of rigid plastic use a springboard action to open up your nasal passageways; when bent across your nose they try to straighten. This “recoil” or “springboard” force gently pulls your nasal passageways open.

By positioning them just below the bone of your nose, the strips act on the narrowest part of your nose, the nasal valve. This bottleneck is most prone to blockage and sits one centimeter behind the nostril opening where nasal strips should be placed.

What’s the evidence?

In addition to the extensive (and often null) research into athletic performance, there have been multiple studies that assess nasal strips and their impact on people’s nightly vocal performances.

Plenty of studies have produced positive results, with most subjects showing significant reductions in the amount of snoring when wearing nasal strips. Importantly, these studies are robust and reliable, using placebo strips without rigid bands as a means of comparison [2].

Who are they for?

Chronic nasal congestion arises for a variety of reasons and nasal strips have proven useful regardless of the cause [2]. Because nasal strips are non-medicated, they are suitable for everyone whose snoring is caused by a blocked nose.

Studies have shown nasal strips have benefits for a variety of people with chronic or acute nasal blockage, including pregnant women [3] and even those with a deviated septum [4].

Are they right for me?

Just like all snoring remedies, external nasal dilators have good and not-so-good points.

Pros:

  • Non-complicated and easy to apply
  • Affordable
  • Non-invasive
  • No side effects

Cons:

  • Not reusable
  • Can loosen during the night
  • Can cause minor skin blemishes

Shop here for external nasal dilators

Internal nasal dilators

Nasal cones, clips, prongs and stents are all simply internal nasal dilators. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials, and can dramatically reduce snoring associated with a blocked nose.

How do they work?

Internal nasal dilators reduce airflow resistance by propping open your nostrils. The springy material forces outwards when compressed to fit inside your nostrils, expanding the alar cartilage on your nose which is very prone to collapse [5].

What’s the evidence?

There is only a handful of studies that look at the benefits of using internal nasal dilators [6]. Max-Air Nose Cones, Airmax nasal dilators and NoZovent clips have been shown to increase nasal airflow, with both NoZovent and Max-Air performing better than external nasal strips [5].

Which type should I choose?

Because these devices go inside your nose, extra consideration needs to be given to the type you choose, so as to avoid negative reactions or discomfort. Look for types that use medical-grade silicone as they are anti-bacterial and easy to clean.

Whilst there are only three types backed up by hard science, they all function in a very similar way. The ones without scientific backing are still likely to be very effective, so your choice should be based on cost, material and comfort.

There are so many internal nasal dilators on the market that choosing a specific one can be difficult. To help you make the best decision, look out for the following:

  • Size – are there different sizes available to get the best fit?
  • Storage – do the dilators come with a case to keep them clean when not being used?
  • Shape – internal nasal dilators can be smooth, ribbed, winged or vented, the comfort of each being highly subjective. Some packs include a variety to help you try them all and decide for yourself.
  • Material – medical-grade silicone is ideal.
  • Lifespan – the great advantage of internal over external dilators is that they are reusable, make sure this isn’t a false economy by getting ones that last a reasonable length of time. Three months is a good benchmark.

Are they right for me?

Although they do the same thing, internal and external nasal dilators have different advantages and disadvantages.

Pros:

  • Quick and easy to use
  • Reusable
  • Different sizes for optimum fit

Cons:

  • Can be uncomfortable if not fitted correctly
  • Require frequent cleaning
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References

  1. Georgalas C. The role of the nose in snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea: an update. European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology 2011; 268(9): 1365-1373. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21340561
  2. Ricardo R S, et al. External nasal dilators: definition, background and current uses. International Journal of General Medicine 2014; 7: 491-504. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25419156
  3. Turnbull G L, et al. Managing pregnancy-related nocturnal nasal congestion. The external nasal dilator. Journal of Reproductive Medicine 1996; 41(12): 897-902. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8979203
  4. Salturk Z, et al. Efficiency of external nasal dilators in pediatric nasal septal deviation. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology 2014; 78(9): 1522-1525. https://kundoc.com/pdf-efficiency-of-external-nasal-dilators-in-pediatric-nasal-septal-deviation-.html
  5. Kiyohara N, et al. A Comparison of Over-the-Counter Mechanical Nasal Dilators, A Systematic Review. JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery 2016; 18(5): 385-389. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamafacial.2016.0291
  6. Ellegård E. Mechanical nasal alar dilators. Rhinology 2006; 44: 239-248. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17216739

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