Neti Pots

DB Ryen

Evelyn asks about using neti pots for her chronic nasal congestion. 

[Keywords: sinuses, saline, rinse, infection, safety, risks, medical, doctor, physician, adivce]

Length: Short, 335 words

Dr Ryen, quick question. I’ve been using Neti Pots for years to help with my allergies, but it’s a hassle to always boil water and let it cool beforehand. Is this necessary?

- Evelyn, Albany, NY

Hi Evelyn! Nasal congestion can be miserable. Sometimes it's from catching a cold, other times it's due to environmental allergies (like you), and some poor folks have chronic congestion all the time for no good reason. Whatever the cause, not being able to breath through your nose sucks. 


Neti Pots work by flushing out the nasal passages with water, which usually provides some relief, at least temporarily. A potential risk is introducing a bacteria into the air pockets within the facial bones, thereby causing infection - this is called bacterial sinusitis, which often requires antibiotics to resolve. The thing is, your nasal passages are full of bacteria anyway, so whether you use sterile (boiled) water or straight tap water, bacteria is going to get flushed around no matter what. My suspicion is that the recommendation for boiled water is a way for the Neti Pot company to reduce liability for any potential infectious complications. 


That being said, I'm not convinced Neti Pots improve nasal congestion in the long run. Alternatively, nasal sprays with a corticosteroid (like fluticasone or beclomethasone) can be quite helpful at reducing the inflammation that causes congestion in the first place, and they're generally safe for short term use. As usual, treating the underlying issue (if possible) is always preferable to symptom control. 


Hope that helps you breathe easier!

© D. B. Ryen Incorporated, June 2021.  

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