NASAL IRRIGATION Overview Information
Nasal irrigation is the practice of flushing the nose and the sinus spaces around it with warm salt water (saline solution). This is done to clear out mucus, moisturize the nose, and improve nasal hygiene. It is also used to treat sinus infections (sinusitis), allergies, the common cold, post-nasal drip, and others conditions affecting the nose.
Saline solutions used for irrigation are either “isotonic saline” (0.9% salt), the concentration that is generally used in intravenous drips, or “hypertonic saline” (between 2% and 3.5% salt). Isotonic saline is also called “normal saline.”
Nasal irrigation is a traditional practice in yoga call “Jala neti.” It was later adopted by Ayurveda. Practitioners use a small neti pot which looks like a teapot. Saline solution is added to the pot and poured through the nostril.
How does it work?
Nasal irrigation involves flushing out the nose and sinuses with salt water (saline). It is done using a variety of methods including application with a bulb syringe or using a “neti pot.” Neti pots are used by practitioners of yoga and Ayurvedic medicine. The neti pots look like small teapots. They are filled with saline solution and poured through the nostrils. No method of nasal irrigation has been consistently shown to work better than another.
Saline irrigation flushes out mucus and irritants from the sinuses, improves the flow of air through the nose, and reduces nasal swelling.
Saline solutions used for irrigation are either “isotonic” (0.9% salt) or “hypertonic” (2% and 3.5% salt). Some research suggests that higher saline amounts are more effective; however, other clinical research shows no difference between isotonic and hypertonic solutions.
Possibly Effective for:
- Allergies. Research shows that irrigating children’s noses with hypertonic saline (containing between 2% and 3.5% salt) 3 times daily significantly reduces allergy symptoms after 3-6 weeks of treatment. Children treated with nasal irrigation also seem to need fewer allergy pills (antihistamines).
- Sinusitis (sinus infection). Research shows that nasal saline irrigation significantly reduces symptoms of sinus infections. However, it does not appear to be as effective as using a corticosteroid inside the nose. Combining nasal irrigation with an allergy pill also appears to be more effective than using an allergy pill alone. However, there is some concern that long-term use of nasal irrigation might actually increase the chance of getting sinus infections over and over again. It is unclear if this increased risk is due to nasal irrigation itself or to improper use of irrigation such as using contaminated rinse bottles.
- Nasal surgery. Some evidence suggests that treatment with nasal irrigation following nasal surgery helps decrease the length of hospital stays and the number of physician visits.
- Upper respiratory infections such as the common cold or flu. Some research in children and adults shows that saline nasal irrigation might reduce symptoms of the common cold or flu including runny nose, sore throat, cough, and stuffy nose. Nasal irrigation also reduces the need for other medications generally used to treat fever and break up congestion and mucus. But other research has found no benefit for reducing symptoms of the cold or flu.
- Other conditions.
NASAL IRRIGATION Side Effects & Safety
Nasal irrigation is safe for most adults and children when used appropriately. Some minor side effects are common including burning, pain, stinging, and nasal irritation. Higher concentrations of saline are more likely to cause these side effects. In rare cases, some people might experience a nosebleed.
There has been some concern that long-term use of nasal irrigation might increase the chance of getting sinus infections over and over again. However, some scientists think that this might be caused by poor hygiene.
There is also concern about nasal irrigation causing other types of infections. There have been reports of brain infection in some people using neti pots for nasal irrigation. But in these reports, people were using neti pots incorrectly with plain tap water.
To maintain good hygiene, use only previously boiled, bottled, or distilled water for irrigating. Wash out pots or other devices used to administer the water with hot soapy water after every use, and never share these items with other people. Rinse bottles should be switched to a new bottle every month.