Is Nasal Irrigation Good or Bad?

Nasal irrigation is the practice of pouring a saline solution into the nasal passages to filter out allergens and mucus. For people with rhinitis, the practice may be quite soothing. However, recent cases of amebic meningoencephalitis have many people second-guessing the value of nasal irrigation.

Amebic meningoencephalitis is a very complicated thing to say. It’s also a very complicated diagnosis that boils down to a brain-eating amoeba. Typically, people become infected by swimming in contaminated lakes, rivers, or hot springs, where the offending microorganism lives. In 2018, a case of amebic meningoencephalitis discovered in Washington state was attributed to nasal irrigation. This could create a great deal of panic and avoidance of the irrigating practice. It doesn’t have to. here, we discuss what patients need to know about cleansing the nasal passages with devices like a neti pot.

Hygiene is Everything

Nasal irrigation is not bad. Many doctors still believe there can be more benefits to this practice than risks. However, there is a need to understand proper hygiene when using a nasal irrigation device if these risks are to be decreased. According to one poll, 48% of patients who used a nasal irrigator put tap water into their device. The 2018 case of amebic meningoencephalitis that we mentioned involved nasal irrigation with tap water that had been filtered through a store-bought system. These systems are limited in what they filter from water.

To irrigate most safely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:

  • Never irrigate with tap water alone, even if filtered.
  • Boil tap water for at least one minute. Cool the water, then insert it into the irrigation device.
  • Store-bought distilled or sterile water can also be used.
  • Soap and water can be used to clean the irrigation device. Rinsing needs to be thorough to remove the detergent.
  • Some irrigation devices can be placed in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. The blast of energy destroys bacteria.
  • Irrigation devices must be allowed to air dry and must be thoroughly dried in between uses.
  • A Betadine solution can be used once a week to sterilize the nasal irrigator.
  • Devices need to be replaced every three months.

Nasal irrigation is often used for the relief of chronic sinus problems, but additional options exist. If you want longer-lasting relief from chronic sinusitis, explore treatment options like balloon sinus dilation. Call our St. Louis office at 314-450-7720 to schedule a consultation.

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