Neti pots are kettle-like containers, with a comparatively larger snout, which are used for the process of neti or nasal irrigation. These pots and the procedure of neti has been described in detail in ancient texts of Ayurveda. Neti pots are used to rinse the mucus or debris from your nasal cavity. These are primarily used for a successful treatment of allergies, sinus infections and colds since ages.
Saline water is recommended for usage in neti or nasal irrigation. However, only sterile, distilled or previously boiled and cooled water should be used for this purpose. Using any other water such as tap water can put you at a great risk of getting exposed to many dangerous and fatal microbes, one of which is the brain-eating amoeba or naegleria fowleri. (2)
Do Neti Pots Cause Brain Infection?
Neti pots are usually used for sinus infections and allergies by many people. This practice is known as nasal irrigation. It is a part of ancient traditional Ayurveda medicine. It has gained a lot of popularity since 2007.
A lot of studies indicate that the use of neti procedure has many great benefits in treatment of colds, allergies, sinus infections etc.
However, there are certain drawbacks related to this marvellous procedure. The primary hazard being exposure to many harmful microbes and infections if the water used in the neti procedure is not properly sterile. This particularly increases the risk of being exposed to an infection like naegleria fowleri, a very deadly brain-eating amoeba. The exposure to this infection can cause death within a week.
Naegleria fowleri is found in freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs. This amoeba attacks the tissue of the brain. It may get inside the body when you have been doing neti with unsterile water, swimming in freshwater lakes or rivers. The water may get inside the nose and travel up to the brain. It is not a problem if the water is ingested as the acid in our stomachs will not let the amoebae survive and kill them. But they can survive in nasal passages and travel to the brain, thus posing a great risk of a deadly brain infection.
Neti pots are a potential source of giving this infection to you. However, the problem is not so much with the neti pots as is with the procedure to use it. It is always recommended that properly sterile water should be used for performing the procedure of neti or nasal irrigation
An unguarded use of neti pots, using unsterile water for neti or nasal irrigation can lead to various other brain infections as microbes can stay in the nasal passage for quite some time and can travel to the brain. Hence, it is always an insistence that sterile water be used for performing procedures like neti or nasal irrigation
Another observation through studies is that a repeated neti or nasal irrigation procedure may increase sinus infections. Though, there are not many studies that prove this, some have been found suggesting this outcome. This may be because nasal irrigation or neti may reduce or strip off the mucosal lining of the nasal passages, exposing it and making susceptible to further infections.
Naegleria afowleri is a pretty rare amoeba. However, the risk is still the same. And because it is such a deadly infection that death may result within a week, there is always a word of caution issued when it comes to the usage of neti pots- sterile, distilled or previously boiled water only is to be used while doing neti. This will reduce the risk of getting exposed to these infections as well as giving you the benefits of neti. (1)
Neti pots are effective in treating colds, allergies and sinus infections. However, using them wrongly, such as using unsterile water for neti can lead to serious brain infections.