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Nasal Dilator Strips Enhance Athletic Performance, or Do They?

Athletes are always in the market for ways to push the boundaries of human potential. One trend that seems to have come and gone is the use of nasal dilator strips. Do they deserve a second look?

Understanding Nasal Dilator Strips

Nasal dilator strips are lightweight adhesive bands designed to be placed across the nose. They work by physically widening the nasal passages, aiming to alleviate nasal congestion and improve the flow of air. Magnetic resonance imaging shows the Breathe Right Nasal Strips® significantly increase nasal patency.(1) Theoretically, improved nasal breathing could lead to better oxygen uptake, reduced effort during physical activities, and potentially enhanced athletic performance.

Research Findings

Scientific studies exploring the effects of nasal dilator strips on athletic performance have produced mixed results. Some studies have suggested that these strips may lead to improved nasal airflow and increased oxygen uptake during exercise. However, other research has found limited or no significant improvements in overall athletic performance metrics such as endurance, speed, or strength. For instance, one study on professional American football players found that the use of nasal strips had no effect on measures of oxygen consumption.(2)  On the other hand, a separate study focused on “all-out,” intermittent exercises performed by untrained athletes.(3) That study found that nasal strips eliminated ventilator muscle fatigue and improved power output.

Enough studies have found that nasal strips don’t improve athletic performance, that  seems to have become the consensus. However, much of the research informing that consensus has been with high-level athletes operating at submaximal levels. It is possible that external nasal dilators have more to offer untrained people in situations of sustained, high levels of exertion. Furthermore, we cannot find a single study specific to the subset of recreational athletes who have chronically reduced nasal patency. Since nasal strips are proven to improve nasal patency, it remains theoretically possible that nasal strips can help people with nose problems get more out of their exercise.   

Factors to Consider

1. Individual Variation: The effects of nasal dilator strips may vary from person to person based on factors such as nasal anatomy, breathing patterns, and the degree of nasal congestion.

2. Sport-Specific Impact: The potential benefits of nasal dilator strips may be more pronounced in endurance sports that rely heavily on efficient oxygen uptake, compared to sports where short bursts of intense effort are involved.



Nasal-dilator-strip packaging often claims to enhance athletic performance, but the scientific evidence regarding their effectiveness remains inconclusive. While these strips do lead to improved nasal airflow, their impact on overall athletic performance appears to be limited based on current research. Athletes considering the use of nasal dilator strips should approach them with a critical mindset and consider their individual needs and sport requirements.



  1. Bishop CA, Johnson SM, Wall MB, Janiczek RL, Shanga G, Wise RG, Newbould RD, Murphy PS. Magnetic resonance imaging reveals the complementary effects of decongestant and B reathe R ight N asal S trips on internal nasal anatomy. The Laryngoscope. 2016 Oct;126(10):2205-11.
  2. Trocchio M, Fisher J, Wimer JW, Parkman AW. Oxygenation and exercise performance-enhancing effects attributed to the breathe-right nasal dilator. Journal of Athletic Training. 1995 Sep;30(3):211.
  3. Tong TK, Fu FH, Chow BC. Effect of nostril dilatation on prolonged all-out intermittent exercise performance. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2001 Jun 1;41(2):189.

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