Monday, December 19, 2011

Neti Pots- Helpful or Harmful?

In Austin, we feel often like we are the allergy capitol of the world...and we are approaching CEDAR season. One of the homeopathic remedies that works very well for patients with chronic sinus congestion is a Neti pot. Have you heard of these? Basically, they look like little genie lamps, and you use them to pour water into you nose and "flush out" your sinuses. I know- it's not for everyone. That being said, I have many patients that swear these daily washes have minimized their previously awful allergy symptoms.

The public health department in Louisiana has issued an important reminder about Neti pots this month, because their state had a second death this year from an amebic brain infection introduced to the victims via their sinus flushes. While drinking tap water that contains this ameba would not cause an infection in a healthy person, using that same tap water to flush your sinuses does have potential to cause serious infection.

While these infections are VERY rare, this serves as a good reminder NOT to use tap water if you are flushing your sinuses. Use only distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water as your irrigation solution, plus be sure to fully rinse and dry your device after each use.

On the PLUS side for sinus irrigation, a study published in September of this year showed significant improvement in quality of life for kids with chronic rhino sinusitis (nasal congestion & sinus pressure) when they had used daily sinus flushes for at least 3 weeks, whether the solution was purely saline (salt water) or saline plus an antibiotic. (See Safetty and efficacy of once daily nasal irrigation...)

BOTTOM LINE: If you have chronic sinus/allergy symptoms, talk to your doctor about whether daily sinus flushes could be beneficial for you, and remember to always use sterilized solutions!

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