3 Tips for Safe Neti Pot Use

How to avoid nasal irrigation risks
woman using nuti pot

Neti pots may look intimidating, but these teapot-looking contraptions actually do wonders for nasal congestion. You just fill it with fluid and then put the spout into each nostril to clean out your nasal passages. Some people swear by this, especially since they get relief so quickly without using medication. 

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Neti pots are often used to relieve sinus pressure and congestion from allergies and colds. Doctors may also prescribe solutions with topical medications for use in a neti pot after sinus surgery. 

Not so fast, though. Although many doctors recommend neti pots, they have to be used carefully. The World Health Organization also reports that rinsing your nose with saline does not prevent coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Ear, nose and throat specialist Raj Sindwani, MD, gives three tips for using your neti pot in the safest way possible:

1. Don’t use tap water

Use distilled, filtered, bottled or boiled water at room temperature — never tap water. Tap water hasn’t been filtered or treated like distilled or bottled has and may cause infections. 

“There are side effects to nasal irrigation,” says Dr. Sindwani. “Always use a clean irrigation device and a clean water source.”

The Centers for Disease Control recommend taking at least one of the following actions to lower your risk for infection:

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  • 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: Chlorine bleach used at the right level and time will work as a disinfectant. 

2. Clean your neti pot thoroughly

Besides the water you use, it’s also important to disinfect and 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. During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s recommended that you clean your neti pot after every single use.

“I also recommend using hot water and antibacterial soap to clean your neti pot every day,” says Dr. Sindwani.

Don’t forget to periodically replace your neti pot. Get a new one every few months, especially if you use it regularly. If your child’s pediatrician recommends your child use one, have a separate one just for them. 

3. Don’t use cold solution

You should never use cold solution in your nasal passages — especially if you’re irrigating your nasal passages after sinus surgery.

“Some of the solutions we prescribe after sinus surgery must be kept in the refrigerator,” says Dr. Sindwani. “You need to allow the solution to come to room temperature before using them.”

If you just had sinus surgery and you used cold solution, you could develop bony growths in your nasal passages called paranasal sinus exostoses (PSE). Researchers have discovered that these growths can develop in the sinuses of people who have undergone surgery for chronic rhinosinusitis, or inflammation in the lining of the sinuses.

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“This is related to the solution being cold, not necessarily to what is in the solution,” says Dr. Sindwani. “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 it’s still important to use fluids at room temperature.

“There are also new medications in development that don’t require refrigeration,” says Dr. Sindwani. “This will make nasal irrigation easier and safer.”

By following these important guidelines and using your neti pot safely, you’ll be able to get relief from allergies, colds and sinus pressure — naturally.

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