Lately I have been plagued with a serious series of insane sinus issues; complete with itchy watery eyes, scratchy throat, congestion of the head and the nose. All of these are pretty much tolerable except for the nose congestion. This year it seems to be worse than ever! One side is clogged and the other side is constantly dripping. It lasts this way for about 5-8 hours then alternates, like they are in perfect synchronization with each other. Saline spray wasn’t working and neither were any of the over the counter decongestants, in complete misery I was willing to try anything just to get a quick feeling of relief, the sensation of oxygen filling both nostrils, the feeling of comfortably breathing which we all take for granted so often.
I was told to try something called a Neti Pot. Quickly I had to ask what it was, the response actually shocked me. I was told it was something that looked like a tea pot that was filled with luke warm water and a salt solution. I was told that this salt solution was something that had to be bought strictly for the Neti Pot, I couldn’t just use regular table salt. Then what I heard next literally made me cringe, it sounded so bizarre I didn’t believe it.
After the Neti Pot is filled with the warm salt water solution, the individual is to lean forward and tip their head to the side and place the spout in one of the nostrils. The water travels up the nose and pours out the other side. That’s right; supposedly the water goes up one nostril and out the other. Insanely skeptical, I decided the only way to find out if this Neti Pot was real was to test it out myself.
First, I did some research on exactly how this device really works. I refrained from typing things like “Neti Pot skeptical” in the Google search because I didn’t want to bias my test. What I found was this: “The Neti Pot irrigates the sinuses with a steady, low-pressure, stream of warm water. If done properly, the water should flow into one nostril, up into the sinus cavities and out the opposite nostril. When we are sick, the mucus tends to thicken in order to trap viruses and bacteria. Pollen is also very sticky and may cling to the nasal passages. The warm salt water flushes dust and other debris out of the sinuses that blowing your nose may miss. Salt also has mild antiseptic properties and can kill some bacteria on contact. The salt also has some mild detergent effects. Some nasal irrigation formulas also use baking soda, which provides an extra level of cleaning. Neti Pots also work preventatively by cleaning out the sinuses, and have been proven effective as a treatment for chronic sinusitis.”
The word that caught my attention in that description on how the Neti Pot works is in the last sentence, the word proven. I instantly thought, I have to purchase this thing ASAP. So I went out my local pharmacy and dropped about $14 on my very first, personal Neti Pot.
When I got home I went right into the bathroom and opened my Neti Pot and found out the water used has to be distilled, so I quickly went into the kitchen to boil some water. After about 45 minutes everything was finally ready. I have to admit, the thought that I was about to pour salt water into my nose was a bit nerve wrecking. Hundreds of crazy thoughts were running through my brain. What if I choke? What if I drown? Finally after a few minutes and a quick pep talk, I placed the spout in my nose, leaned forward and tilted my head to the side.
The feeling was very weird, similar to… well, water going up your nose. My eyes started to water slightly and I thought, “Wow this is stupid.” Then it happened, a stream of water started to pour out my other nostril.
Instantly I started to laugh, which wasn’t a good idea, because it cause some of the salt water solution to drip down my throat. The taste is awful. I let about half of the pot drain into one nostril, when I stopped and switched sides. When I was finished, I let the excess water drain out of my nose and gently blew my nose into a tissue. Mucus galore. I have to admit, it’s very soothing and surprisingly I could breathe a little better. I wasn’t 100% normal but I was definitely breathing out of both nostrils.
So what do the doctors say about this home remedy? Is it really effective? Does the Neti Pot really work?
To my surprise E.N.T’s (ear, nose and throat doctors) actually recommend nasal irrigation by use of Neti Pots. They use this method as a way to clear away any crusting in the nasal passages. The basic explanation of how the Neti pot works is that it thins mucus to help flush it out of the nasal passages.
On WedMD it reports “A more biological explanation for how the Neti pot works has to do with hair-like structures called cilia that line the inside of the nasal and sinus cavities. These cilia wave back and forth to push mucus either to the back of the throat where it can be swallowed, or to the nose to be blown out. Saline solution can help increase the speed and improve coordination of the cilia so that they may more effectively remove the bacteria, allergens, and other irritants that cause sinus problems.”
On one of my favorite, Science Based Medicine, Dr. Harriet Hall cautions not to overdue Neti Pots she says “
A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in November 2009 found that while short-term nasal irrigation is therapeutic, long-term use of nasal irrigation is harmful. Regular users of irrigation who continued using it had an average of 8 episodes of recurrent rhino sinusitis per year, while those who discontinued it only averaged 3 episodes per year. The investigators hypothesized that the nasal mucosa serves as the first line of defense, and irrigation depletes the nose of its immune blanket of mucus, thereby increasing the risk of recurrent infection.”
I know most people are thinking salt water solution, why not just use saline spray? Well truth be told, I thought the same thing, but study actually shows that saline spray is not as effective as nasal irrigation, that can be seen here:
So turns out medically this method does work. It doesn’t cure the common cold or even your sinuses, it does however provide temporary relief of horrible symptoms, just be careful and don’t overdo it.