“The nose is like a car filter or home air filter that traps debris,” says Steven Osborne, M.D., speaking about Neti pot use. Osborne is a medical officer in FDA’s CDRH, or Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
Yuck, this calls for a pleasant childhood memory. “I’m a little teapot, short and stout, here is my handle and here is my spout!”
We’ve all heard this rhyme, and probably have home video somewhere of us turning into a teapot. But a Neti pot, while it looks like a teapot, is actually used for nasal irrigation and not tea. There’s also a pressure release squeeze bottle that does the same thing.
What is a Neti Pot?
A Neti pot is a form of nasal saline irrigation, a therapy that uses a salt and water solution to flush out the nasal passages. Nasal rinsing can remove dirt, dust, pollen and other debris, as well as help to loosen thick mucus. It can also help relieve nasal symptoms of allergies, colds and flu.
Although nasal irrigation using the Neti pot has been around for centuries, its use is on the rise in the U.S. The Neti pot originally comes from the Ayurvedic/yoga medical tradition.
Osborne compares nasal irrigation with a saline solution to using the most common saline eye drops to rinse out pollen. Why not just use plain, filtered water? Adding the saline (salt), he explains, creates an isotonic solution that doesn’t damage the delicate nasal membranes or produce a burning sensation.
Why Do People Use Neti Pots?
Many people suffer from sinus problems. A cold, a sinus infection, congestion, or allergies are just a few things that affect the sinuses and nasal passages – this list can also include recovery from any kind of nasal or sinus surgery. Other than blowing your nose, taking pseudoephedrine, or being prescribed antibiotics, there isn’t anything else you can do to help alleviate the misery.
As curious humans, we like to research things to find answers to our problems. Someone’s search discovered Neti pots. Now it’s a common treatment for sinus problems that even some doctors and specialists recommend – not just your crazy uncle with the potions.
How Do You Use a Neti Pot?
The procedure for nasal irrigation varies some by device but includes these basic steps:
- Wash and dry hands.
- Check that the device is clean and completely dry.
- Use the appropriate water (see below) to prepare the saline rinse and fill the device, as instructed by the manufacturer.
- Lean over a sink and tilt your head sideways, with your forehead and chin level to make sure the liquid doesn’t exit your mouth.
- Breathe through your open mouth, insert the spout into your upper nostril and allow the liquid to drain from the lower nostril.
- Clear your nostrils by gently blowing, then repeat after tilting your head the opposite direction.
- Wash the device with the appropriate water (see below), and dry with a clean paper towel or air dry.
Is it Safe to Do Nasal Irrigation?
Whether you use a Neti pot or another method, when done properly it is widely accepted to be safe to do nasal irrigation. However, practicing the process properly is of critical importance, according to FDA guidelines, available on its web site.
What Types of Water Should be Used for Nasal Irrigation?
Water labeled distilled or sterile can be bought in stores, or tap water can be boiled and cooled until lukewarm. It takes 3-5 minutes of boiling time to kill the potentially infectious organisms that may live in some tap water systems. These microbes are killed by stomach acid, which is why it’s safe to drink. You can store the boiled water for up to a day inside a clean container with a lid. If your tap water is filtered, make sure the filter has an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller. Check the CDC web site for an updated list of filters recommended for those who use nasal irrigation.
Are Neti Pots Safe for Children?
If a pediatrician recommends it, children as young as 2 years old with nasal allergies may benefit from nasal irrigation. However, very young children may not tolerate the procedure.
Side Effects of Nasal Irrigation
Talk to your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms while using a Neti Pot or other nasal rinse: