Nasal Rinsing, or the Use of Neti Pots

The use of neti pots and similar methods of irrigating the nasal cavity is an old homeopathic remedy for sinus pressure and high levels of sinus mucus. Though the neti pot stems from ancient Indian Ayurvedic hygiene and wellness practices, doctors have recently been paying more attention to the method. What they have found is that it is both a safe and effective method for clearing the sinuses of mucus, and may also help to reduce inflammation by flushing small, irritation-causing particles out of the sinuses, as well as viruses and bacteria.

Usually a nasal rinse is some form of saline concentration. It is recommended that patients use an isotonic concentration, or a concentration that has saline levels similar to those in the human body. Patients can either purchase premixed salt packets for this or make their own at home. One common recipe calls for 2-3 teaspoons of iodine-free salt and 1/4-1/2 teaspoons of baking soda for one liter of sterile water. Including a small amount of baking soda in the rinse has been shown to yield better results than saline alone. Some patients prefer higher levels of saline concentration, but studies have shown that this can damage the nose’s cilia. Cilia are small, waving hairs that keep the nose clean. Increased salt levels in your nasal rinse can lead to increased nasal congestion and nasal swelling.

It is very important when flushing your nasal cavities that you use sterile water. Boiled, distilled, or well-filtered water are recommended. Do not use water from a wild or questionable source without appropriate filtration and sterilization. In very rare instances, amoeba present in a municipal water source has caused encephalitis in neti pot users. Encephalitis is a deadly brain infection. It is not common to find such amoeba outside of untreated water supplies, but the results are serious, so use caution and ensure your water is safe before using it in your sinuses.

In addition to sterile water, it is also important to use sterile equipment. To sterilize the bottle you are using, microwave it for two minutes in cold water. One study found this method more effective than a boiling water rinse. Using Milton’s antibacterial solution was also found to be an effective sterilization method.

Ideally, an effective nasal rinse will reach as much of the nasal lining as possible. There are a couple of factors in application that may improve the rinse’s effectiveness. First, when applying the rinse, place your head down. This can help the irrigation reach the top of the nose and forehead sinus. Second, a high volume of delivery tends to be more effective than a lower volume of delivery. The increased volume tends to result in the optimal coverage of the nasal lining.

There are a couple of treatments that can work in conjunction with nasal rinsing to improve patient results. One is sinus surgery. If there are nasal blockages present, surgery can lead to improved delivery and effectiveness of a nasal rinse. Another is medicated irrigation. In patients with chronic sinusitis who were using topical antibiotics or nasal steroid sprays, high volume rinses with diluted steroids improved their symptoms.

If you are having nasal issues, please call and make an appointment with one of the specialists at Nevada ENT and the Reno Tahoe Sinus Center. We can help determine the source of your symptoms and give you information on treatment options individually tailored to your circumstances.


Source: Nasal/Sinus Irrigation by Benjamin S. Bleier, MD