Nasal Dilator Strips: Application Tips

As simple as the nasal strips look in appearance, most users will benefit from a few tips to enhance their results in applying them. These instructions fall into the three categories of how to put them on, how to take them off, and special applications. 

To put on the nasal strip correctly, use your thumb and index finger (forefinger) to feel the bony ridge of your nose, usually about halfway down from the bridge of your nose. As the bony portion will not be affected by a nasal strip, be sure to place it below the ridge. Thus, the nasal strip must always be placed on the soft, malleable tissue of the nose situated on the bottom half or third of the nasal structure. Precision is required in determining this space on the nose, but once you have placed the strip a few times, you will usually find the right spot thereafter without much difficulty. Placing it on the bony ridge will result in no benefit.

Before placing a nasal strip, the skin must be clean and dry, and very dry is optimal. Most people are best served by washing the nose with soap and water, drying off the skin, and then putting on the strip immediately. If for any reason you have the least bit of oily skin and you delay this step by as little as 5 to 15 minutes, there is a very real chance the nasal strip will fall off at night, because this small amount of oil will break the adhesive seal a few hours into your sleep period. For some people, waiting more than 60 seconds is too long. Those with fair skin are less likely to experience this problem. 

Taking off the nasal strip requires some patience in the morning and includes an assessment of how strongly the adhesive is holding on to the skin. A great many people have injured the skin by taking off the nasal strip too quickly. This irritation can turn extreme with actual ripping of the skin. Such experiences will often cause the patient to reject further use of nasal dilator strips. For our patients, we always give instructions on taking off the strip, which include either a soap and water effort over the sink or a shower in the morning. Either way usually works, and for an especially strong adhesive effect, start in the shower and moisten the nasal area, and then near the end of the shower use additional soapy water as needed to remove the strip. If circumstances do not permit access to soap or water in the morning as you might be rushing to work, then gently twisting the tips of your fingers underneath both ends of the strip, GRADUALLY, will also undue the adhesive. However, in this situation the very last part to release, that is, the middle portion of the strip, may prove the tightest, so go the slowest when you get to the middle to avoid tearing akin. The chance of tearing skin is very high if you do not have access to soap or water, so this approach can take a few minutes or more in some patients.

One final tip to consider is the use of more than one nasal strip. I have met many individuals who reported using two strips, and I have tried this technique as well, most commonly in the rare occasions when I use my oral appliance instead of my PAP for extenuating circumstance. The two strips can work in parallel or perpendicular, the latter forming a cross. For the side to side, you start by placing the first strip at the lowest possible point on the nose, and then the second strip overlaps with the first one by as much as 50% coverage. Be sure that the second strip is not over the bony ridge of the nose. If you have difficulty configuring the two strips in this manner, try the cross where the second strip starts at the very tip of the nose, and then you gently pull up on the strip and feel it raising the tip. The other end of the cross usually rests above the bridge of the nose in the space between your eyebrows. Again more care is required in removing two strips.

All these tips are applicable whether you are using nasal strips solo or with PAP therapy. Following these instructions closely will yield better results and fewer if any side-effects.

Barry Krakow MD


Dr Krakow’s 27 years of sleep research have focused on the complex relationship between physiological and psychological sleep disorders. Dr Krakow currently operates private sleep medical center, Maimonides Sleep Arts & Sciences, Ltd., and serves as Classic SleepCare’s paid Medical Director.

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