A neti pot is a small vessel, usually made of ceramic, metal or plastic, used to rinse the nasal passages. The technique originated in India and has become popular around the world. Originally used to clear the nostrils before yogic breathing, use of the neti pot has become part of regular self-care for many people with sinus and allergy issues.
Benefits of Nasal Irrigation
Nasal irrigation (also known as "nasal lavage") is a commonly recommended technique for those suffering from sinus congestion, allergy symptoms and dry nasal passages. Rinsing the nasal passages with saltwater helps thin mucus. It also clears the nostrils of irritants, allergens and infectious agents. Irrigation also eases dry, irritated nasal passages, a common symptom in cold climates.
Neti Pot Solutions
Most neti pots hold about 8 oz. (1 cup). The pot is filled with a solution of non-iodized salt and water; a good ratio is 1/4 tsp. to 8 oz. water. The rinsing procedure is done twice, once for each nostril, so you may want to mix the full amount at once: 1/2 tsp. salt to 16 oz. (2 cups) water. Always use finely ground salt, such as regular table salt. The water should be about skin temperature. Some people use baking soda in their neti pot water, and others add essential oils. If essential oils are used, no more than 1 drop per cup of water should be added. Several companies market "neti pot solutions," but these mixes do not provide any additional benefit. Salt and water are all that is necessary.
Using the Neti Pot
Stand over a sink or in the shower. Tilt your head to the side, bringing your ear toward your shoulder and then tilt the head forward. Insert the neti pot in the upper nostril, and allow the water to flow into and through the nose; it should exit through the bottom nostril. If water enters the back of your throat, increase the forward tilt of your head until the drip stops. After the rinse is finished, lean forward and allow any water to flow out. Blow your nose gently and thoroughly. Repeat the procedure on the other side. The neti pot can be used daily.
If your sinuses are clogged, the water may not pass through the nose at first. If this happens, wait a few moments, and then remove the neti pot. Bring your head back to center, and lean forward to let any water remaining in the nostrils flow out. Sometimes, it takes a few tries for water to flow freely through the passages, but even the local irrigation provided by the water entering 1 nostril is helpful.
Pain with Using the Neti Pot
Using a neti pot should not hurt. If you have a burning sensation or other pain in the nostrils during use, check the water temperature. Water that is too hot or too cold can cause discomfort. Reassess the salt mixture; if there is too much or too little salt, a burning sensation will result. If you experience pain in the sinuses or a headache after using the neti pot, make sure to clear your nostrils thoroughly after use, by leaning forward and blowing your nose. If the sensation persists, consult a health practitioner.
Keep your neti pot clean, and always use clean water in your solution. Neti pots, like toothbrushes, should not be shared. If you are experiencing fever, severe headaches, bright green nasal discharge or a productive cough, consult a physician or qualified health practitioner before using the neti pot. These can be signs of serious infection. Those with sinus anomalies should consult a specialist before using a neti pot.