Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

People who suffer from chronic sinus or allergy problems know how uncomfortable it feels to have a perpetually stuffy nose. Not being able to breathe properly is a nuisance to deal with on a daily basis. Nasal irrigation is one such method which many sinus patients are relying on to get some relief from a stuffy and blocked nose. Nasal irrigation is not a new technique and has been used for many years now to flush out blocked nasal passages. Nasal irrigation makes use of a saltwater solution. In fact, many experts believe nasal irrigation to be the first line of defense while dealing with allergies and sinus problems. A neti pot, meanwhile, is a device that helps you do the nasal flushing in a more efficient manner. Today we look at the concept of nasal irrigation and neti pots, and whether or not these are safe to be done and if they carry any risks or side effects.

What is Nasal Irrigation & What is a Neti Pot?

Nasal irrigation is a technique that flushes out blocked nasal passages with the use of a saltwater solution. Many types of products are available to use for nasal irrigation. Some of the most common ones include a bulb syringe, a neti pot, or a squeeze bottle. Out of these, a neti pot is generally used by most people. A neti pot is similar to a little teapot and has a long spout, helping the water go into the nasal passages easily.

Neti pot is nothing but the devices used for nasal irrigation. Neti pots use saline solution or plain saltwater to treat congested nasal passages by irrigating them. Neti pots also provide help in allergies, the common cold, and sinuses. Using a neti pot makes it easier to deliver a stream of saltwater into your nasal passages. The water is poured into the nasal cavities, through one nostril, and it comes out of the other. Practitioners of nasal irrigation with the help of a neti pot, do the process three to four times a day. Neti pots moisten the nasal passages and help you breathe easier.

How Does Nasal Irrigation Help?

A nasal rinse helps provide relief to people suffering from sinuses, allergies, or the common cold. Nasal irrigation can help in the following manner:

  • Nasal irrigation clears the nose of mucus, allowing you to breathe easier.
  • Nasal irrigation using a neti pot reduces inflammation in the nasal passages and sinuses, thus providing relief.
  • It removes any small particles, bacteria, and viruses that may be clogging your nose.
  • Nasal irrigation prevents chronic sinus infections and also common colds.

Nasal irrigation or rinsing can also help in removing any pollen, dust, or any other debris from the nose. Many times, individuals opt for using nasal rinses along with their usual allergy medications. It has been found that the combination of both medications and nasal irrigation helps provide more relief and tends to work better.

What Type of Water Can you Use in Nasal Irrigation?

Saline water is used for nasal irrigation because plain water irritates the nasal membranes. The saline in the water does not cause any burning or irritation to the delicate nasal membranes. You have to use only distilled or sterile water for nasal rinses. You cannot use tap water as it is not safe and it has not been adequately filtered or treated. It is also possible that some tap water may contain a low level of organisms or bacteria that may cause serious infections when you put the water in your nose.

When you generally swallow these organisms, the acid in your stomach kills them. However, inside the nasal passages, it is possible for these bacteria and smaller organisms such as amoebas/protozoa to stay alive, thus causing serious infections. You can buy sterile or distilled water in all chemist shops. The label on the water will clearly state it is 'distilled' or 'sterile'. You can also use water that has been boiled and then cooled. You need to boil the water for at least 5 minutes and then allow it to cool down till it becomes lukewarm. You can also store this boiled water in a clean and closed container for using within 24 hours. Water that has been filtered through a filtration device is also safe for use as the filter will trap any potentially infectious or harmful organisms.

Is Nasal Irrigation Safe?

Supporters of nasal irrigation claim that the process offers substantial relief from nasal congestion and nasal irritation. It is also said that nasal irrigation provides relief from headaches that are commonly a part of sinus congestion or the common cold. Nasal irrigation is also said to lower an individual's reliance on antibiotics for treating sinus infections. Nasal rinses also reduce the use of nasal corticosteroid sprays that many use for controlling nasal inflammation from allergies.

Several clinical trials have also shown that nasal irrigation is a safe process that is well-tolerated by most people. The only drawback is perhaps that the process is a cumbersome one, particularly when considering how little effort it takes to just to take some medication. In a study conducted at the University of California, San Diego, over 200 patients were studied who were using nasal irrigation with a neti pot. All participants reported that they experienced 'statistically significant improvements' in at least 23 out of 30 signs and symptoms that were troubling them; and also experienced an overall improvement in their quality of life.

A Word of Caution Regarding Nasal Irrigation & Neti Pots

While there are no known side effects of using nasal irrigation and neti pots, some caution has to be exercised. These include:

  • Do not use nasal irrigation or neti pots on infants.
  • Do not use nasal irrigation or neti pots regularly as it may actually increase the chances of a sinus infection by removing even the protective elements from the nasal membranes.
  • Use only sterile or distilled water when preparing the nasal irrigation solution.

Conclusion

Neti pots are a great and natural way of relieving nasal stuffiness, congestion, and allergies. However, it is only recommended if you are irrigating with sterile water and if you do not use it too frequently. The process of nasal irrigation has been used for hundreds of years and is a basic part of Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. If you do have any concerns, though, it is recommended that you consult your doctor once before you start using a neti pot for nasal irrigation.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: June 26, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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