HYANNIS – About 29.4 million adult Americans suffer from chronic sinusitis according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic sinusitis causes nasal congestion, nasal discharge, sneezing and itching that can have a moderate to severe impact on quality of life. But, relief might be easier than you think.
A new study of close to 1,000 people who suffered from chronic sinusitis compared two common treatments: steam inhalation and sinus irrigation. Sinus irrigation was the clear winner for providing symptom relief.
“We actually recommend saline sprays and saline rinses all the time,” she said. “It’s an easy way to clean out your nose and we use it for a lot of reasons. It’s good for people who have nasal allergy symptoms, people who experience nose bleeds, people with upper respiratory infections or colds that are feeling congestion and post-surgical patients. We also use it to administer medications sometimes.”
Dr. Caplin said she recommends using either a “neti pot” or a NeilMed Sinus Rinse Kit for nasal irrigation. The neti pot works with gravity to direct saline from one nostril to the other and the NeilMed is a squeeze bottle that allows for a quicker flush.
For those who fear that these devices will sting, Dr. Caplin said there might be an initial feeling of slight discomfort the first time you use one because most people aren’t used to having fluid in their nose.
“The saline is buffered with bicarbonate, which is baking soda,” she explained. “It helps buffer the salt so it doesn’t hurt like it does when you get salt water up your nose when you are swimming in the ocean. Room temperature water is probably more comfortable than cold.”
Here’s How You Do It
Dr. Caplin offered the following safety precautions:
- Either buy pre-mixed packets or make your own using the proper ratio of salt to bicarbonate recommended by your doctor.
- Always use distilled water to make the solution.
- Thoroughly clean your neti pot after each use.
- Don’t share neti pots or NeilMed bottles with others.
- Insert the devices gently so you don’t irritate your septum.
Both devices come with directions, but Dr. Caplin said the basic procedure is to fill the neti pot with the saline solution and lean your head over the sink in your bathroom. Insert the device into one nostril and bear down slightly to close your palate. Gently pour or squeeze and the saline solution will flow in one nostril and out the other. Repeat for the other side and blow your nose.
Most people use a neti pot or NeilMed once or twice a day for maximum symptom relief. If people do it in the morning, it’s completely normal to have a little saline come out of your nose later in the day, she said.
“Some people who don’t like the rinses will use just nasal saline spray that you can also buy over the counter,” Dr. Caplin said. “That doesn’t do as well for flushing the nose or removing irritants, but it does keep your nose moist, so in the wintertime it’s a great thing to use to prevent nose bleeds and irritation.”
Dr. Caplin recommends nasal irrigation for everyone and said even small children with colds can use the NeilMed for relief. Afterwards the child can either blow their nose or a parent can use a bulb syringe to suction excess fluid out.
“Saline is such a benign thing that it’s very safe,” she said. “It seems like an odd concept at first but once you’ve done it, it’s easy and it makes people feel better.”