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Neti Pot, Nasal Irrigation Pros and Cons

Find out when it's OK to use a neti pot or other forms of nasal irrigation, and when you may need more help.
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Cons of Nasal Irrigation continued...

The idea behind this finding is that nasal mucus serves a beneficial function, helping to protect the body against infection. "The nasal mucus we have in the nose contains very important immune elements that are the first line of respiratory defense against infections," explains Talal Nsouli, MD, who headed the study.

As it helps remove the bad mucus, saline may also dilute or wash away these beneficial antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral agents, says Nsouli, who is a clinical professor of pediatrics and immunology at Georgetown University's medical school and the director of the Watergate & Burke Allergy and Asthma Centers in Washington, D.C. 

Nsouli doesn't advise stopping nasal irrigation altogether. He only suggests using it in moderation.

"I don't have anything against nasal saline. But I have something against nasal saline being used long-term on a daily basis," he says. "People who are using nasal saline on a regular basis, it makes them feel like it is helping them, but they are only patching the problem."

Nsouli advises using nasal irrigation for no more than one to three weeks. If your symptoms don't improve during that time, see your doctor, who can diagnose the underlying problem and get you the appropriate treatment.

Keep it Safe and Clean

Nasal irrigation is generally considered to be safe, but a small percentage of regular users experience mild side effects such as minor nasal irritation. People whose immune system isn't fully functioning should ask their doctor before trying nasal irrigation because they are at greater risk for infections. 

Also, anyone who is prone to frequent nosebleeds or who doesn't have a good swallowing mechanism might want to avoid nasal irrigation.

Do not use tap water for nasal irrigation. "If you are irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses (for example, by using a neti pot), use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. It’s also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry," the CDC's web site states.  

It's very important to keep your nasal irrigation device clean because it can harbor bacteria that can cause an infection. Either wash it by hand, or put it in the dishwasher if it's dishwasher-safe.

No matter how well you clean your nasal irrigation device, you don't want to keep it forever. Just as you toss out your toothbrush every few months, throw out your neti pot or syringe and buy a new one, Pynnonen says.

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Reviewed on December 20, 2011
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