Beat nasal infection, congestion with saline irrigation

Nasal congestion, sinus infection, upper respiratory issues are here to stay. For many, fall and spring bring the dreaded signs and symptoms of nasal trouble. Indian Ayurvedic medicine has a solution, and it’s called the neti pot. It is a simple method for irrigating the nasal passages for short term symptomatic relief. While recent horror stories of its use may scare some, with the right education the neti pot is a terrific low-cost, safe and effective wellness tool.

Sinusitis and rhinitus

Issues with the nasal passages and sinuses are not only uncomfortable, but often create a host of symptoms that can affect your home and work lives.

The signs and symptoms of sinusitis and rhinitis include thick yellow or off-colored mucus that drains from the nose (runny nose) or post-nasally (down the throat, causing sore throat). Nasal congestion is also common, from either too much mucus or swelling of the mucus membrane, making it difficult to breath and causing pain in the sinuses (cheeks, around eyes, forehead). Such issues may be caused by virus, bacteria, irritants or airborne allergens.

Nasal irrigation

Prescription or over-the-counter sinus medications are not the only alternatives available for symptomatic relief. A more natural and less toxic method is simply to irrigate the nasal passages with a saline solution. Nasal irrigation improves nasal mucociliary clearance while also removing mucus from the maxillary and ethmoid sinuses.

There are several ways to irrigate or flush the nasal passages, but in my experience, the easiest and most convenient way is to use a neti pot. These are small, hand held vessels with a long spout. You simply tilt your head over a sink, press the spout against a nostril and pour in the saline solution. Keep your mouth open to breathe but be sure to keep the head tilted in such a way to prevent the water and discharge from running out of the open nostril and into your mouth.

Negative neti press

In 2012 the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases reported on the deaths of two Louisiana residents from a “brain eating” amoeba (Naegleria fowleri) after using neti pots. This created quite a stir in the medical community and fear-based journalism began a scare that turned many off to the idea of using a neti pot. This amoeba, however, was not the result of the neti pot itself, but rather that both people had used infected tap water in it. Tests came back showing the amoeba were present in both Louisiana homes via their respective tankless water heaters. In other words, such horrific conclusions were not based on the neti pot or its use, but rather with how these individuals heated their hot water. Which brings us to the issue of safety.

Nasal irrigation is physician approved

While nasal irrigation has been around for centuries, and is prescribed by alternative medical practitioners and embraced in households the world over, many may not be aware that it is also physician-recommended.

In 2009 the Wisconsin Medical Journal published a study on how Wisconsin family doctors prescribed neti pot use to their patients. According to the study “Saline nasal irrigation (SNI) is an adjunctive therapy for upper respiratory conditions; clinical studies suggest that use of SNI may be effective for symptoms of upper respiratory conditions, and its popularity seems to be growing.”

The study found that 87 percent of respondents have used nasal irrigation as adjunctive care for a variety if upper respiratory conditions. Among the leading applications were rhinosinusitis (91 percent), acute bacterial rhinosinusitis (67 percent), and seasonal allergic rhinitis (66 percent). More importantly, 77 percent of respondents also reported having used SNI prior to antibiotics for acute bacterial rhinosinusitis.

Tips for best (and safest) use…

While there were two reported deaths by neti pot by contaminated water, overall neti pot use is safe and effective if the following precautions are followed:

  • Use a ceramic neti pot – While there are many kinds of neti pots, including the popular blue plastic variety, ceramic is safest. Like mugs and dishes, the ceramic neti is sealed and not as susceptible to bacteria.
  • Use a clean and dry neti pot – If it is damp or you see water, dirt or dust on or within it, wash it with soap and hot water and allow to air dry or towel dry it.
  • Distilled water is best – The distillation process separates the inorganic impurities found in water from the H2O itself, leaving a distilled and clean water in the end result.
  • Using a water filter is helpful only if it has an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller. Check product packaging
  • If you must use tap water, boil it – Boiling tap water will kill the pathogens. After boiling allow the water to cool to room temperature.
  • Make sure your hands are also clean – Even though your neti pot may be clean and your water distilled, if your hands are dirty you may inadvertently add bacteria to the process.
  • Use a saline (salt water) solution by adding packaged irrigation salts to the water – Most neti pots come with pre-packaged salts.

By following the simple safety precautions the neti pot can be your go-to method for reducing the symptoms of nasal discomfort. It is safe and effective for short-term use and may help more than drugs with less side effects. Have a look online and do some research on quality brands of pots and solutions and give it a try.


Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis Deaths Associated With Sinus Irrigation Using Contaminated Tap Water — Clinical Infectious Diseases

The prescribing patterns of Wisconsin family physicians surrounding saline nasal irrigation for upper respiratory conditions — PubMed



Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.