The Neti Pot: My Experience with Nasal Irrigation
I have allergies. Lots of allergies. Essentially if it grows out of the ground and produces pollen I’m allergic to it. Pollen and cats. I say this to explain why I was willing to try an odd little device called the Neti pot. Also known as a nasal irrigator or a nose bidet, the Neti pot is used to cleanse the sinus passages by pouring a saline solution into one nostril and allowing it to drain out the other. The first time I saw this thing being demonstrated on TV I couldn’t believe my eyes!
If you’ve never seen a Net pot looks like a love child conceived by Beauty and the Beast’s Mrs. Pots and Aladdin’s lamp. Proponents claim the Neti pot “cleanses, refreshes, and protects the nasal passages.” Supposedly it is therapeutic for allergy and sinus infection sufferers.
I was skeptical at fist; could pouring water up my nose really be a good idea? So I looked it up on WebMD.com. The information there seemed to support the claims so next I asked my own doctor about it. To my surprise he was rather enthusiastic. He informed me that this was an age-old therapy that has seen a resurgence thanks appearances on shows like Oprah.
Reassured but still somewhat hesitant I purchased a Neti pot from the local pharmacy, but set it aside for a while. Ddid I really want do this? But soon thereafter I came down with a head cold. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t smell, I couldn’t taste, and I couldn’t talk properly. So I decided to go for it.
The instructions on my Neti pot read as follows:
1) Empty the contents of the saline dry ingredients packet into the pot. First time users should start with ½ packet.
2) Fill the pot with lukewarm tap water. This makes ½ cup of solution.
3) Stir thoroughly until dry ingredients have dissolved.
4) Lean over the sink with your head bent down so you are looking directly into the basin. Holding the pot in your right hand, gently insert the spout into your right nostril so that it forms a comfortable seal. Breathe with your mouth open. Rotate your head so that the right nostril is directly above the left. Raise the handle of the pot so that the solution enters the right nostril, it will drain out the left.
The initial sensation I experienced using the Neti pot was not unexpected. I’d experienced that same feeling every time water went up my nose while I was swimming. Next, I became aware that the solution was trickling down the back of my throat and into my mouth. I later found out this can be avoided by breathing continuously though the mouth (I must have been holding my breath). Lastly, I noticed that while the advertisers always showed a stream of water exiting the lower nostril, I was only getting a trickle. I can only guess that this was due to the amount of congestion I was experiencing.
After using the Neti pot I blew my nose as per the instructions. What I expected was that this would expel any excess water from my nose. What I got was a rather large amount of mucus exiting my nostrils (gross!). I also experienced my ears popping uncomfortably (apparently this can be avoided by blowing with less force). But once I had completed the entire procedure I could, in fact, breathe. Not only that but my sinuses really did feel open and clean!
I have only used the Neti pot a handful of times since my first attempt, but I’m hooked. It hasn’t cured my allergies, and I still take anti-histamines every day, but I do feel less congested. For anyone considering a Neti pot for nasal irrigation, I would definitely recommend it.