Dear Dr. Roach: I have allergies and am congested a lot at night. I have read about over-the-counter clips and adhesive tapes. Would they help me breathe better? Are they safe for the long term? M.V.M.
Answer: There are many different types of external devices that are designed to open the nasal passages during sleep to make breathing easier. Some of them are more like adhesive tape; others are inserted into the nostrils. They are marketed both for nighttime use and to improve sports performance.
A few years ago, a comprehensive review of studies on safety and effectiveness on these types of devices was published showing modest effectiveness, with as much as 75 percent improvement in symptoms. However, reviews at an online retailer were decidedly mixed. I believe that a persons individual anatomy may be suited to only a particular type of device, or perhaps none at all. Fortunately, these devices are relatively inexpensive and safe, and may have significant benefit, so it may be worth a try. They almost certainly are safer than prescription or even over-the-counter medication.