Let saline soothe your sore sinuses: the neti pot

You may recall that, in my recent post regarding sinus infections, I mentioned the use of a neti pot to soothe your inflamed sinuses.

Have you ever heard of the neti pot? Perhaps you've used one before?

The neti pot apparently originated in the ancient Ayur Vedic medicinal practices of India. In recent years, it was popularized by an episode of Oprah, featuring the famous Dr. Oz extolling the virtues of the "nose bidet" for cleaning the sinuses. In my own practice, I have a number of patients who swear by this technique for keeping their nose and sinuses clear of congestion and crusted drainage.

There are also several small studies that have demonstrated, scientifically, the benefits of nasal irrigation with a neti pot for symptoms associated with upper respiratory infection, chronic sinusitis or allergies. For example:

  • A 2007 randomized, controlled study comparing the neti pot to nasal saline spray showed that the neti pot gave much better relief of chronic sinus symptoms (1).
  • A 2006 study concluded that the neti pot "is a safe, well-tolerated, inexpensive, effective, long-term therapy that patients with chronic sinonasal symptoms can and will use at home with minimal training and follow-up" (2).
  • Finally, a Cochrane review (which is an evidence-based summary of all the scientific literature on a topic) concluded in 2009 that nasal saline irrigation does "relieve symptoms, help as an adjunct to treatment and are well tolerated by the majority of patients" with chronic rhinosinusitis (3).

How does the neti pot work?

The neti pot uses gravity to flush the nasal passages and sinuses of contaminants that could put you at risk for infection. To use the Neti pot, you mix 1/4 tsp of salt (preferably uniodized salt, like sea salt) in 8 ounces of warm water. It is best to use filtered, boiled or distilled water, rather than tap water, as there have been cases of a rare but serious brain infection due to the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, resulting from contaminated tap water used in a neti pot. You place the tip of the neti pot in one nostril, tip the pot, and allow the water to drain up one nostril, then down and out the other. There is no need to sniff or do anything other than let it flow through with gravity.

You can use the neti pot as often as you like to soothe your congested nasal passages. Most people say it is a comfortable process. If it burns, perhaps you need to adjust either the amount of salt or the water temperature; some neti pot users recommend adding a pinch of baking soda to avoid a burning sensation as well.

Check out this Howcast video, which will walk you through the steps in using a neti pot.

Feel free to share your experience with the neti pot. Any tips for novice neti potters?

 

Sources:

(1) Pynnonen M, Mukerji S, Kim H, et al. Nasal saline for chronic sinonasal symptoms: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2007;133:1115-1120.

(2) Rabago D, Barrett B, Marchand L, et al. Qualitative aspects of nasal irrigation use by patients with chronic sinus disease in a multimethod study. Annals Fam Med. 2006;4:295-301.

(3) Harvey R, Hannan SA, Badia L, Scadding G. Nasal saline irrigations for the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD006394. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006394.pub2.

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