Nasal Irrigation to Relieve Sinus and Allergy Symptoms

by NaturalRemedies

Nasal irrigation, such as with a Neti pot, can relieve nasal stuffiness, as well as flush out excess mucous secretions related to allergies, rhinitis, and sinusitis.

Twenty years ago, a physician’s assistant (PA) asked me if I did nasal irrigation. Since I had no idea what he meant, I figured I could safely say “No”. Most people now at least have heard of nasal irrigation through shows like Dr. Oz, The Doctors, and even Oprah, with the neti pot demonstrations. So what the heck is nasal irrigation really, and why should you care?
Nasal irrigation is a simple, painless way to clean the nasal passages with warm salt water. Why would this be beneficial? The benefits are two-fold. One benefit is to “pull out” fluid to reduce nasal stuffiness. The other benefit is to flush out excessive nasal secretions.

The First Time I Heard About Nasal Irrigation

I have been performing nasal irrigation, pretty much daily for over 15 years.  I do it almost as soon as I get up, even before brushing my teeth.  When people learn that I irrigate, they often say, “That is so gross and disgusting.”  My stock reply is “You suck on your mucous and swallow it.  That’s not more disgusting?!” 

Perhaps more disgusting, I have demonstrated nasal irrigation for people many times.  Why?  Because I believe so strongly in it.  Nasal irrigation has given me such powerful relief of my sinus and allergy symptoms, that I wish 20 years ago that PA would have insisted I at least try nasal irrigation.  At that time, I was maybe a year into what became over six years of chronic sinus infections.  I guess it was a matter of statistics.  Of all the people I have told about irrigation, and recommended they try it, only a few brave souls have actually followed through.  Multiply that by 100 for a PA. 

Why is the Idea of Nasal Irrigation so Scary?

To be fair, I was very reluctant to try irrigation too.  A couple years later (after the PA mentioned irrigation to me), a friend and colleague started wearing me down, trying to convince me to give it a try.  She too was having chronic sinus infections.  She hit me with a bit of tough love, and basically asked if I wanted to feel better, or if I just wanted to complain.  Good question, don’t you think? 

I guess like most people, I thought irrigation would be disgusting, or painful, or that the water would go down the wrong way.  I’ve heard plenty of people say, “I don’t swim.  I don’t want the water to choke me”, or something similar.  Well here’s a news flash, I’m not a swimmer.  And I’ve never had the water choke me, or go down the wrong way, or anything uncomfortable.  Nasal irrigation is really no big deal.  Honest. 

Getting Started- How to Irrigate

You'll need salt, warm water, and a syringeI’ve included several videos on irrigation, each with good information, and two with demonstration.  I guess most people use the Neti pot, but I just use a baby bulb syringe.  Use a salt without iodine or anti-caking agent, just plain salt, such as kosher salt or sea salt.  I use about one teaspoon of salt and one pint of warm water.  You’re trying to match your body’s natural salt content.  If you didn’t use salt, it would burn like crazy.  Of course, too much salt burns too.  You can also add a half teaspoon or so of baking soda.  Alternatively, you could use normal saline, or buy pre-packaged salt and soda and follow the directions for how much water to add. 

Depress the syringe, and draw the salt water into it.  I lean over the sink, place the tip of the syringe into one nostril, and squeeze.  I suppose I suspend breathing, but I don’t really pay much attention.  One of the videos says to just breathe through the mouth.  I do each side one to three times, and go back and forth until I’ve used most of the water.  I produce lots of mucous.  (I think the mucous is related to my reflux, but that’s another story.)  You may only need one cup of salt water, and wash each side two or three times. 

As discussed in the Neti pot video, I blow forcefully through my nose periodically, but again, I have lots of mucous.  Similar to the video, I bend over, and turn my head side to side to “drain”, and blow my nose with double tissue.  I don’t however do “exercises”. 

Tips for Sinus Congestion

When you have a stuffy nose, your nasal membranes in your nasal passages are engorged with fluid, causing swelling, and therefore narrowing of the nasal passages.  The result is the annoying feeling of a stopped up nose. 

For congestion, make the water a little saltier.  This is using the principle of osmosis, like we learned about in grade school.  If the environment on the outside is saltier than the internal environment, then the liquid will follow the salt.  So the extra salinity of the water will pull excess fluid out of your nasal tissues, and help open up your nasal passages. 

Great Video on Benefits of Nasal Irrigation, and How to Perform

Sinus Headache

I have found that nasal irrigation is often my best relief for sinus headache.  Often I will irrigate, and wash out a big glob.  Disgusting I know, but my sinus headache will then soon pass.  I also use King Bio Homeopathic Natural Medicine spray, which helps.  I carry it in my purse, because you can’t always irrigate if you’re out and about. 

More on Sinus Irrigation

Neti Pot Demonstration

Irrigation for Rhinitis/Sinusitis/Sinus Infections

Most of the time I wash out (that’s what I call it, “washing out”) my passages once a day, when I get up.  That’s best case scenario.  When I’m having rhinitis, I might wash out several times a day, when I’m feeling the mucous, such as post-nasal drip.  When I’ve been really sick with a sinus infection, I’ve washed out as often as every 60 to 90 minutes.  When that post-nasal drip cough kicks in, that’s the cure for me. 

When you wash out daily, it’s like an early warning signal for allergies or infection, when you see that your secretions are no longer clear, but take on yellow or green color.  Colorful secretions without signs of sickness, such as fatigue or fever can be allergy, whereas you tend to feel sick with sinus infection.  Admittedly, this is very gross.  Getting all this grossness out of your body however is good.  Most physicians would agree that having all that stuff in your passages probably makes you more prone to a full blown sinus infection.  When you see signs of sinus infection, be sure to discard your syringe frequently, and use a new one.  (I order my syringes from Amazon, two dozen at a time.  I’ve included a capsule with the syringes I use.)  If you use a neti pot, sterilize often. 

Talk to Your Health Care Provider

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Consult your doctor or alternative medicine provider. 

The Bulb Syringes That I Order

Dynarex Ear/Nose/Ulcer Irrigation Bulb Syringe, Sterile, Disposable, 2 oz, Box of 25

Features of the Dynarex Ear/Nose/Ulcer Irrigation Bulb Syringe: • Sterile. • Disposable. • All purpose bulb syringe for aspiration and irrigation. • 2 oz. The product ...

Only $88.00

View on Amazon

Neti Pot with Salt

Himalayan Institute Original Neti Pot Complete Sinus Cleansing System Starter Kit

The Starter Kit contains everything needed for a daily nasal wash routine—Ceramic Neti Pot™, Neti Pot™ Salt 10 oz jar, and Neti Wash Plus® 2 oz bottle. The Himalayan Institute ...

$27.90  $20.04

View on Amazon

Updated: 02/26/2012, NaturalRemedies
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TessaSchlesinger on 02/26/2012

Nice content and well written!

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