Small ceramic pots, called Neti pots, have been around for centuries as a simple and inexpensive way to alleviate symptoms of allergies, sinusitis and colds. Now, the popular allergy remedy and other forms of nasal irrigation are being called into question because of safety concerns and possible improper usage.
Nasal irrigation with a Neti pot, bulb syringe, squeeze bottle or other device involves cleansing the nasal passages with warm saline water. The fluid flows through each nasal cavity to remove mucus and other debris.
Many allergy and chronic sinus sufferers who have found relief are strong proponents of nasal irrigation. They find it helps thin out thick mucus, makes it easier to remove and eliminates nasal congestion.
However, in one recent study, nasal irrigation was found to be harmful if overused. Sixty-eight adults, who regularly practiced nasal irrigation, were tracked over a course of a year. The next year, the study’s participants were asked to stop irrigation and sinus infections dropped by 62 percent.
The study’s authors, who presented their findings to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, did not recommend doing away with nasal irrigation but rather limiting its use to no more than 1-3 weeks and seeing a doctor if symptoms don’t improve.
The problem with long-term nasal irrigation is it removes beneficial antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral agents, and robs the body of its first-line of defense against infections, according to the study.
Improper nasal irrigation also has been tied to deaths from using contaminated tap water. In 2011, two people in Louisiana died after irrigating their nasal passages with water, contaminated with brain-eating amoeba.
Nasal irrigation devices may harbor bacteria if not washed regularly. Clean nasal devices at regular intervals with a dilute solution of laundry bleach and hot water. (Some experts recommend washing the devices daily.) Follow this cleaning with repeated rinsing and air drying.
Bottomline on nasal irrigation devices:
•Use your’s regularly if it’s working for you. Otherwise, consider laying off irrigation for awhile to see if symptoms improve.
•Follow proper usage instructions for your device which means keeping it clean, replacing if needed, and filling with distilled, filtered or boiled water.