For relief from nasal congestion, some people swear by their neti pot. If you haven’t seen one, it looks like a small teapot. You fill it with fluid, then put the spout into each nostril to clean out your nasal passages.
They’re often used to relieve sinus pressure and congestion from allergies and colds. Also, after sinus surgery, doctors may prescribe solutions with topical medications for use in a neti pot.
While many doctors recommend neti pots, they have to be used carefully.
Don’t use tap water
Use distilled, filtered, bottled or boiled water at room temperature – never tap water.
“There are side effects to nasal irrigation,” says Raj Sindwani, MD, Head of the Section of Rhinology, Sinus and Skull Base in Cleveland Clinic’s Head & Neck Institute. “We recommend that you always use a clean irrigation device, and a clean water source. It is recommended that you use bottled, distilled or boiled water at room temperature.”
The Centers for Disease Control recommend taking at least one of the following actions to lower your risk for infection:
- Boil: Use water that has been previously boiled for one minute and left to cool. At elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes.
- Filter: Use a filter designed to remove some water-loving germs. The label may read “NSF 53” or “NSF 58.” Filter labels that read “absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller” are also effective.
- Buy: Use water with a label specifying that it contains distilled or sterile water.
- Disinfect: Learn how to disinfect your water to ensure it is safe. Chlorine bleach used at the right level and time will work as a disinfectant.
Clean your neti pot thoroughly
Besides the water you use, it’s also important to clean your neti pot thoroughly to avoid infections. Rinse the irrigation device after each use with safe water, and leave the device open to air dry completely.
“I also recommend using hot water and antibacterial soap to clean your neti pot every day,” Dr. Sindwani says.
Also, you want to periodically replace your neti pot. Get a new one every few months, especially if you use it regularly.
Don’t use cold solution
People should never use cold solution in their nasal passages – particularly patients who are irrigating their nasal passages after sinus surgery.
“Some of the solutions we prescribe after sinus surgery must be kept in the refrigerator,” says Dr. Sindwani. “We tell patients they need to allow the solution to come to room temperature before using them.”
If post-surgical patients do use cold solution, patients can develop bony growths in their nasal passages. Researchers have discovered that these growths can develop in the sinuses of people who have undergone surgery for chronic rhinosinusitis (inflammation in the lining of the sinuses). The growths are called paranasal sinus exostoses (PSE).
“This is related to the solution being cold, not necessarily to what is in the solution,” says Dr. Sindwani , a co-author of a recently released study. “These growths can develop when the cold solution comes into contact with the surgically opened sinus cavities.”
PSE look like small polyps or cysts, but they are actually bone. They’ve only been found in the sinuses after surgery, but Dr. Sindwani still recommends that all of his patients use fluids at room temperature.
“There are also new medications in development that don’t require refrigeration,” Dr. Sindwani says. “This will make nasal irrigation easier and safer.”