Why use a nasal irrigation system?
Oklahoma is generally not kind to allergy sufferers. Oklahoma City and Tulsa both rank usually high in spring and fall allergies.
Some allergy sufferers don't want to use a lot of medication and would instead prefer to use a more natural approach.
That's where nasal irrigation comes in. During nasal irrigation, a person runs a saline-type solution from one nostril to the other, clearing out the sinuses along the way. Using nasal irrigation can help some people relieve symptoms including congestion, nasal drainage, sinus pressure and excessive mucus production.
There are a lot of different apparatuses to deliver the saline to the nose. One of the more popular techniques is the Neti Pot, which resembles a teapot with a long spout.
To begin, you'll need some type of nasal irrigation device. You can generally find these devices at pharmacies or drugstores, but you might also have something at home that could work, as long as it is clean. For example, you could use a soft rubber ear bulb syringe or an infant nasal bulb, again, as long as they're clean.
Before you start, you'll need to mix the solution that you'll use. You can use the solution mix that comes with commercially available apparatuses, or you could make your own.
For example, you could use pickling or canning salt that doesn't contain iodide, anti-caking agents or preservatives; baking soda; and one cup (8 ounces) of lukewarm distilled or boiled water. It's important not to use tap water. It's recommended you use distilled or boiled water to ensure safety — but make sure it's not too hot before you put it in your nose.
To perform nasal irrigation, you will flush your nasal cavity by pushing water through one nostril. The water will go behind the nasal septum and come out the other nostril. While performing nasal irrigation, you'll have to tip your head forward and away from the nostril where you're applying the solution. This directs the saline out the other nostril.
Clearing your nose beforehand can sometimes make the process easier. And your doctor might recommend you use a nasal spray before attempting to perform nasal irrigation.
Does it hurt?
Generally, it shouldn't. If you're properly using the device, you shouldn't feel pain in your ears or anywhere in your sinuses. If you do feel pain, you should stop and readjust the angle and pressure you're using. If the pain is severe, it's best to talk with your doctor before continuing to use the device.
If the solution is flowing through from one nostril to another and not into the back of your throat, you are likely using the device properly.
Overall, the feeling of the solution in your nose can be unpleasant, and some people say it feels like they're drowning.
What are the risk factors?
In the past few years, nasal irrigation made headlines when two people died who contracted Naegleria fowleri, a rare infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue. Public health officials thought that people were using unboiled tap or faucet water and contracted Naegleria fowleri, which was contaminating the water supply.
Additionally, there is some debate about whether people can use the devices too frequently. Some doctors worry that too much rinsing can kill helpful bacteria-fighting agents in the nose. More research is needed to determine what problems could exist with nasal irrigation.
It's important to talk with your doctor and voice any and all questions or concerns you have.
How soon does it work?
Sometimes it takes a few tries, but the results of nasal irrigation can be immediate. In some cases, people with active infections might see thick discharge removed from their nasal passages.
Most research showing the efficacy of nasal irrigation has focused on people who suffer from chronic rhinosinusitis, a nasal or sinus infection that lasts for more than 12 weeks. Some research has shown that, for these people, nasal irrigation can make a difference.
However, for someone suffering acute rhinosinusitis, which lasts less than 12 weeks, it might not be as effective. Overall, most experts feel like larger, more extensive studies are needed to draw better conclusions.
Sources: Dr. Shahan Stutes, an allergist at Oklahoma Allergy and Asthma Clinic; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Mayo Clinic; American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.