Sinuses Driving You Crazy? Try A Neti Pot

March 24, 2010 at 4:38 pm , by

Neti 1After fighting allergies and chronic sinus problems for years, I decided to try a neti pot. I’d seen Dr. Oz demonstrate it on Oprah, and I knew that people in other cultures have used them for thousands of years. Still, it sounded weird to me—kind of like an auto-induced version of waterboarding. Why pour salty water up your nose when you can take a high-tech pill?

CAN A LITTLE POT OF SALTY WATER REALLY DO ANYTHING?

I wasn’t convinced until I interviewed Gary Rachelefsky, M.D., director of the Executive Care Center for Asthma, Allergy and Respiratory Diseases at UCLA last year for a story on allergies. Because it mechanically clears the sinuses by thinning secretions so they can flow out, he said, nasal irrigation can prevent chronic problems, allergies and infection. Simple as that. So as allergy season approached last spring, I decided to try it.

HOW TO USE A NETI POT
I got a small plastic pot at the drugstore, along with the premeasured Sinus Rinse packets by NeilMed (basically a mixture of salt and baking soda, with no preservatives) and followed the directions.

I use tap water filtered in my Brita pitcher, gently warmed in the microwave to a comfy warm temp. About 8 ounces with one packet of rinse, shake gently, then bend slightly sideways over a sink and pour in one nostril (mouth open) as solution flows out the other nostril. Switch about halfway through. Yes, it feels really weird at first, like you’re doing something that nature didn’t intend, but the solution doesn’t burn or sting unless your sinuses are really irritated and inflamed. It takes only a few seconds, and you don’t really feel different when you’re done.

This is an important point I learned the hard way:
Be careful about blowing your nose afterward, as that can force water into the ears, which is painful and could lead to infection. You can blow extremely gently without pinching the nostrils or just kind of drip and blot with a tissue.

RESULTS
I started last April as allergy season kicked in, using the neti pot twice a day, but soon switched to just once a day. Four months later, I’d had almost no allergy symptoms at all, except itchy eyes a few days, and some sneezes on really heavy pollen days. No cold or flu-like symptoms, no sinus headaches, no fevers, no infections.

NEW EVIDENCE

As spring bursts into bloom again, I’ve started using the little blue pot again—especially since a new review of studies just came out. While there’s not a large body of evidence either for or against the use of neti pots, the studies do show that saline nasal washes may flush out excessive mucus and infectious material, might strengthen the nose’s own filtration system and could reduce the amount of medications used to treat upper respiratory infections while reducing downtime from illness. And there’s no downside to using them, so that’s good enough for me!

For more allergy relief tips, check out this site from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Tell us in the comments below if you’ve used a neti pot or saline rinse and if it helped you. Cheers to a sniffle- and sneeze-free season!

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