What is a Nasal Dilator?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 January 2020
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A nasal dilator may refer to an external or internal device that helps to open the passages in the nose so that breathing is easier and air coming in encounters less resistance. These products are often sold to people who have difficulty with snoring, and some find they are very effective in reducing snoring issues. They may also be marketed to athletes, and have been used by many prominent athletes, though evidence suggesting their effectiveness is not strong.

The most common type of nasal dilator is called external. It can be adhesive or flexible material that fits over the nose bridge. In this manner it slightly expands, widens or dilates the nasal passages, which could prove useful for sleeping. Some people use these dilators at night not only to tame snoring issues, but also to relieve congestion caused by allergies or colds. The degree to which a nasal dilator will be effective may vary by the person. It can be said some people really think they work, and others try them and are unsatisfied with their performance.


One area of controversy is whether an external nasal dilator is at all effective in increasing exercise performance. Here, there appears evidence that performance is not enhanced by their use. Several scientific studies have evaluated this matter to see if increased airflow translates to better athletic performance, and these studies conclude that this is really not the case. Therefore, people might want to skip purchasing dilators for this purpose, unless they have tried them and feel they do make a difference.

The other form of nasal dilator is called internal. These tend to be less popular than the external since they are flexible devices worn in the nose. They can vary in size and material, but like external types they’re often marketed as a cure for a snoring. One of the benefits of the internal type is that they’re longer lasting. Many of these can be used for several months, though they should be washed in between uses.

One of the principal advantages of any type of nasal dilator is that it is drug free. While some people may combat congestion or snoring problems by using certain medications, nasal dilators lack this approach and may be preferable. They could be particularly useful for those who take many other types of medications. Of course, not everyone finds them equally effective to treat snoring, and conditions like sleep apnea should be assessed by doctors and sleep specialists to determine if more breathing support is required at night.


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Post 3

@burcidi, @anamur-- It's a good idea to check if nasal dilators will work before investing in any. One way to check is to press on one nostril to close it and then breathe through the other nostril with the mouth closed. Usually you can tell while doing this if the nostril collapses during breathing. If it does, then nasal dilators will definitely help.

People who do heavy exercises regularly like jogging, cycling and swimming will also notice breathing difficulties due to narrow nostrils. That's how I noticed mine. I'm a cyclist and I realized that after the first fifteen minutes, it becomes really hard for me to breathe. I don't know if it's because my breathing quickens or if

it's due to dry air.

A month ago, I started using external nasal dilators during races and it has made all the difference. I can actually breathe throughout the race and I do feel like I'm getting more oxygen. Studies might not have shown benefits to athletes, but that hasn't been the case with me.

By the way, my doctor said that for nostrils that collapse, internal nasal dilators are better. For nostrils that don't collapse, but are just narrow, external nasal dilators work better.

Post 2

@burcidi-- Exactly! Some people are dissatisfied with external nasal dilators because they expect it to treat things like obstructive sleep apnea. I'm so glad the article mentioned that ailments like these need to be assessed by medical professionals.

I use an internal nasal dilator. I've used the external ones too but the adhesive irritated my skin. The adhesive is way too strong and it was hard to remove. I like internal nasal dilators a lot better. They don't damage skin or hurt. And it really does save money since it can be reused. The external nasal dilators can end up costing a lot in the long term since they're a one-time use only.

Post 1

I use an external nasal dilator or a nasal strip which is the more common name. It works for me, but I use it for slight snoring due to narrow nasal passages. My wife has tried using them for congestion and it didn't work for her at all.

Nasal strips are pretty basic, it has an adhesive and you just stick it on your nose. It pulls the skin up and opens up the nasal passages. It prevents me from snoring and I'm happy with it.

Some people think it's useless and a waste of money. I don't think it's useless, it's just not enough when it's a more serious problem. Like my wife gets sinus infections and has a lot of congestion. Only decongestants help with that, nasal strips can't do anything.

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