What is nasal sinus irrigation, and will it help my allergies?

Pouring water into your nose may seem like a strange thing to do, but it just might help with your allergies.

Nasal sinus irrigation has been practiced since ancient times in India. And modern research shows that it is indeed safe and effective, if done correctly.

How does sinus irrigation work?

Nasal sinus irrigation is basically just pouring a saltwater solution into one nostril and letting it drain out the other. The practice can help rinse out mucus, bacteria, and allergens like dust and pollen. That means you may need less allergy medicine or nasal decongestants.

If you’re interested in trying nasal sinus irrigation, buy a traditional neti pot—which looks like a little teapot with a long spout—or a bulb syringe, squeeze bottle, or battery-operated pulsed water device. You’ll find these devices in drugstores or online.

You can buy premixed salt packets for your saline solution, or make your own. To make your own, the American Rhinologic Society suggests mixing 2-3 teaspoons of iodine-free salt and 1/4-1/2 teaspoons of baking soda with 1 liter of sterile water.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Fill your container with saline solution.
  2. Leaning over a sink, tilt your head sideways, with your forehead and chin roughly level with each other to keep water from running into your mouth.
  3. Insert the spout of the container into your upper nostril and let the water drain through your lower nostril.
  4. Clear your nostrils.
  5. Switch sides and pour the solution through the other nostril.

Breathe through your mouth while you’re doing this, not your nose!

This great slideshow has more details if you’re having trouble imagining how this works.

Make sure your equipment is sterile

Please keep in mind that it’s critical that you use sterile materials. People have developed life-threatening infections from contaminated nasal irrigation solution.

Use only distilled, sterile, or boiled water—no tap water. You can buy distilled or sterile water in grocery stores. Or boil tap water for 3-5 minutes, cool it to lukewarm temperature, and use it within 24 hours.

Throw away any leftover solution and thoroughly clean your irrigation device, drying it with a clean paper towel or letting it air dry. If your device is microwave-safe, you could microwave it for extra safety.

If you continue to have sinus problems, please call us at Arizona Otolaryngology Consultants (AOC).

AOC is a comprehensive ENT clinic that provides care for all diseases of the ears, nose, throat, and sinuses. The physicians at AOC have the highest level of training and expertise in ENT care and ENT subspecialty care, which includes the management of pediatric airway, cancer, skull base surgery, advanced head and neck surgical and reconstructive procedures, craniofacial surgery, and more. Call 602-264-4834 to request an appointment today.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

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