A Nasal Rinse a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

October 1, 2015

Teira Gunlock

For allergy sufferers, the old “apple a day” wisdom does little to stave off the next sneezing attack. Many now practice daily “Neti potting” to keep their allergy problems and sinus issues under control. Neti pots and other similar nasal irrigation devices use a saline (salt water) solution and push water into one nostril, up the nasal passageway, and out the other nostril. Evangelists of this practice claim that by rinsing out the allergens, allergy symptoms decrease or go away entirely.

I’d like to accessorize this season with something other than a tissue adhered to my nose, so I set out to investigate some basic questions.

Do nasal rinses work?

Yes. The Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Wisconsin have conducted six studies on the effectiveness of nasal rinses.

Overall, they conclude that it is an “effective adjunctive therapy for chronic sinus symptoms.” Dr. Benjamin S. Bleier of the American Rhinologic Society also concurs that sinus irrigation is helpful to patients by decreasing inflammation.

Are nasal rinses safe?

Yes, but…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Dr. Steven Osborne says that these devices are generally safe, so long as individuals take the proper precautions. Always using distilled water, following each device’s instructions, and keeping the device clean, are just a few of the requirements for a safe nasal rinse.  

Where can I buy a nasal rinse?  

Typically, they can be purchased at your local drugstore. They range from $10 to $20 and are offered in several designs with varying features depending on your needs (e.g., small for travel).

How do I use a nasal rinse successfully?

Instructional blogs and YouTube videos abound when it comes to how to use a nasal rinse. Most importantly, you should read and follow the instructions on your nasal irrigant of choice. Even with instructions, though, it may take some practice to become comfortable, as evidenced by my first few tries:

Day 1: My first attempt resulted in a slight, slow (but still shocking) burn in my nose. Think “discount wasabi.” I could breathe easy afterwards, though, so that was positive. 

Day 2: Water. Everywhere. Bathroom counter? Soaked. Me? Soaked. For the novice, I recommend not doing this before heading out the door in your work clothes.  It takes some trial and error to find the right angle. 

Day 3: Success! I calculated the angle over the sink correctly so didn’t have a massive clean-up. The water felt fine going in and out. All in all, I felt fresh and clean afterwards. 

Continued use and time will be the biggest indicator of success in terms of reducing my own allergy symptoms, but for now, I will consider myself at least amateur in the practice of nasal rinsing and given the evidence, I'm willing to try to take my practice to professional status.

Originally published Oct 1, 2015 1:36:08 PM.