Fun Times with Nasal Irrigation
Mmm, now there’s an appetizing title if I ever saw one!
Don’t worry, I’ll try not to get too graphic with the details. I just wanted to share the joy of the neti pot as I alluded to in my last post.
I bought my neti pot in the spring of 2008. I was finishing up my last semester at UConn, and thanks to springtime in New England, I was stuffy, sneezy and generally in a sad sinus state. A friend mentioned that she used a neti pot. She explained how you’d fill it with saline solution and rinse your nose with it.
Ew, I thought. That does not sound pleasant. But being stuffed up and simultaneously runny wasn’t exactly the best feeling either so I decided to give it a shot. I went to the CVS on the corner and searched. On the bottom shelf in the ‘sinus’ aisle I found a box containing a plastic neti pot and little packets of salts.
Returning to the condo that I shared with two (sometimes three) friends, I locked myself in the bathroom to commence the nasal irrigation procedure. I mixed the salts with warm tap water** and stirred it with the little plastic spoon, right in the neti pot.
**Seeing as we were right up against a farm and we had well water, it’s pretty much a miracle that I was not immediately stricken with brain-eating amoebas. I don’t use tap water anymore, but I’ll get to that later. Let me get back to the story!
I tilted my head to the side, as indicated in the instructions, and began pouring the solution in one nostril. My nose was so stuffy that the water had nowhere to go but down my throat. There was a lot of gagging and sputtering, but after a few tries I was able to get the water to flow through one nostril and out the other.
There was a mild sense of being violated the first couple of times using the neti pot. It was also a bit of a challenge to get the salt content just right and the water temperature right. But after using the neti pot for so many years, I consider myself a pro. So here is my method.
1. Use clean water
Either boil tap water (and let it cool before using, obviously), or buy distilled water. I usually get by with about 1 gallon a week, because I don’t use it every day.
You shouldn’t use raw tap water because it can contain bacteria that can cause infections. (Your stomach is better equipped at handling that bacteria than your nose is.)
2. Warm up the water
I keep my distilled water in a cabinet, so it is at room temperature. I use a 24 oz Mason jar to warm it up. I fill it to just below the mouth (so it’s probably close to 30 oz of water) and put it in the microwave for about a minute. If the water is really cold to start with you might need to go a little bit longer, but be careful not to get it too hot. In the summer, I don’t need to warm it up much, if at all.
3. Add salt
I use one level teaspoon of plain, fine sea salt for my saline solution. I’ve seen recipes that call for baking soda as well but I’m lazy. I just dump that tablespoon into the warm water and mix it up real good.
4. Prepare the sink area
I take the Mason jar of water, the neti pot, a box of tissues and a towel to the sink. The less experienced you are, the more towel you’re going to need. Close the bathroom door. No one wants to see you do this.
5. Do it
Pour some of the water from the mason jar into the neti pot. I’m able to get about 4 neti pots of water out of it.
Lean over the sink like you’re going to spit out your toothpaste. Tilt your head so your chin is in line with your shoulder. Put the tip of the neti pot against your nostril and angle it so the water pours into your nose. This takes some adjusting to get the right angle. For me, it can also depend on how stuffy my nose is.
Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work or doesn’t feel right at first. Keep trying and it will get better.
After you’ve done one side, gently blow your nose. Don’t hold one side closed or try to force anything out. Just kind of a heavy breath out through your nose is good.
Repeat on the other side.
6. The Aftermath
Blow gently to get excess water out. It may continue to leak out for a few minutes after. Or maybe that’s just me.
Wipe up the wet counter top with the towel.
Rinse the neti pot and the jar and let air dry.
Why do it?
Ok, maybe you read all this and you still don’t see the appeal. Maybe you’re one of those lucky people who does not have any problems with your nose, and in that case, you probably don’t need to do this. Why are you even bothering to read this?
Do you remember going swimming as a kid, either in a pool or in the ocean, and having water forced up your nose when you did a sweet cannonball, or maybe when a wave hit you in the face? Yeah, it might have hurt for a moment, but do you remember how it felt afterwards? Your nose was clear and every breath was delicious.
The neti pot gives you that kind of relief without the pain of cold water being forced up your face. It’s like a controlled nasal flush.
Have you tried the neti pot? What did you think? Are my instructions helpful?