The cost of breathing right

John I. Carney
3 min readAug 9, 2018

Depending on the season, I sometimes sleep with Breathe Right strips. These are the plastic strips, about the size of a Band-Aid, that you stick to the bridge of your nose. The strip has two or three layers, and one of those is stiff plastic, which doesn’t want to be bent and which, as it tries to return to its original shape, pulls open your nostrils. This allows you to breathe better at night and supposedly reduces snoring. Because I live alone, snoring isn’t a problem, but I do think I sleep better with the strips.

Breathe Right is an excellent product — but it can be a little pricey, even if you take advantage of the $1 off coupon included in most 26-strip boxes.

For years, there have been cheaper, store-brand alternatives. Or, shall I say, one cheaper, store-brand alternative. The outer box would look different depending on whether you were buying the strips from Kroger or Dollar General or Walgreens, but the inside packaging — an instruction sheet and the peel-apart aseptic jacket surrounding each strip — did not contain any logo, and made it clear that all of these store brands were the identical product, from the same manufacturer.

I generally have no problem with store-brand equivalent products. If Aldi ever comes to Shelbyville, I will do a big portion of my shopping at Aldi, and most of what Aldi carries are store brand products.

But the store-brand nasal strips were, universally, horrible. The skin on my nose is quite oily, and I use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean it off before applying a strip. A Breathe Right strip would, normally, stay on all night. But the older versions of the store-brand equivalent would sometimes begin peeling off before I had even fallen asleep. If I did manage to fall asleep, I would find the strip stuck to my pillow the next morning.

I was nearly out of Breathe Right strips last week and forgot to pick them up at Kroger. The next day, I ran into Dollar General Market and looked for them. Apparently, our Dollar General Market doesn’t carry the name-brand Breathe Right strips at all, only Dollar General’s store brand, Rexall. (Side note: When I was I kid, I remember when Rexall was a chain of franchised, independently-owned drug stores. Now, the chain is nearly gone, but Dollar General uses the Rexall brand name for some of its store-brand medicines and health products.) A one-week supply of the Rexall strips was only $2.50, and the label said they were now “40 percent stronger,” or some such, so I figured I would give them a try. It’s probably been a year or two since I’ve tried the store brand strips.

I was pleasantly surprised. The strips were, in fact, much better. They’ve been redesigned, and they stayed on the whole night. I was almost out of my week’s supply, and in Kroger today I bought a one-month supply of the Kroger store-brand strips. Sure enough, they’re identical to the redesigned Dollar General strips, and the price for a month’s supply of the Kroger strips was considerably cheaper than the same quantity of Breathe Right strips. So that’s a few dollars saved every month.



John I. Carney

Author of “Dislike: Faith and Dialogue in the Age of Social Media,” available at