With fall allergies in full swing, along with the start of flu and cold season, allow me to introduce nasal irrigation and my neti pot.
With the exception of a 4-year respite in South Bend, IN, I’ve suffered from general “hay fever” type allergies most of my life. For me, this generally manifests as congestion leading to sinus headaches. In high school, I was a Flonase junky (back before there was a generic option).
When I started having problems again after college, I wanted to try something different.
Nasal irrigation cleans out the nasal passages, removing allergens, bacteria, and other irritants.
What you need:
- a neti pot
- pickling salt
- baking soda
- dechlorinated water
You can find neti pots at most drug stores and many health food stores. These places also sell a packaged salt mix, but you don’t need this! It’s a waste of money and packaging. You could use table salt, but I highly recommend the pickling salt, which is pure salt, no iodine and no additives, like anti-caking agents, to irritate your delicate little nasal membranes.
My mix: 1 1/3 c. dechlorinated water (just let let regular tap water sit in an open measuring cup for 24 hours to dechlorinate), generous 1/2 teaspoon pickling salt, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder. I pour 2/3 c. of the mixture into the neti pot for one nostril, then use the rest for the other.
Here’s a slideshow to walk you through the process.
Does it hurt? Usually, no. It’s only painful when I’m REALLY congested, or sometimes when I skip a day. Lesson here? For this to work well, you should neti every day. Once you make it part of your routine, it will only take a few minutes. I neti in the evening, usually an hour or two before bed.
Using the neti pot every day means traveling with proper supplies. Come back tomorrow for that tale.
Great post! My stepmother is an allergist and she swears by sinus irrigation. I used to have to use a nasal steroid every night just to be able to sleep, but not since I started irrigating!
There are actually a whole host of irrigation devices out there, and my step mom actually tried them all! (She gets free samples from the manufacturers who all really want her to recommend their product.)
Her favorite is made by a company called Nasaline. It’s basically a big syringe that shoots the saline up your nose. She gave me one and it really does work great (especially if you’re congested because it gets the saline much farther up your sinuses than a neti pot.) The problem is that it has a little rubber gasket which makes the seal on the syringe, and if you use the thing daily, said gasket wears out in about 4 months. Of course, you can’t just replace the gasket, so you end up having to replace the whole thing, which is both a waste of money and a waste of plastic.
So I found one called a “SinuCleanse Squeeze” at the grocery store. It gives you the same squirting action with no rubber gasket! It doesn’t squirt quite as strong as the Nasaline, but it’s still perfectly adequate. The only issue with it is that you have to be sure to screw the top on really tight in order to get an air tight seal which it needs in order to work right. But I haven’t needed to replace it in over a year and it’s still going strong! I still have a Nasaline thing which I only use when I’m REALLY congested, because it does deliver more power which works better for those situations.
OK… one more thought and then I’ll shut up. You can actually use Kosher salt if you can’t find pickling salt because it too is free of additives. NEVER use sea salt because it can have other things in it which can actually give you an infection.
Thanks for the info on other irrigation devices. Generally, the gentle pressure of the water is enough and it flows right through. There are some times when I’m really congested and I just stand there with my head turned over the sink, neti pot inserted in nostril, and nothing happens. Or it moves veerrrryyyy slllooooowwwwly. I might have to look into one of the other options for those times.