How to Use a Neti Pot

Benefits and Instructions

neti pot
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A neti pot is a ceramic container that is used as a tool for nasal irrigation. A type of self-care practice typically used to treat allergies, postnasal drip, sinus infections, and colds, nasal irrigation involves using a salt water rinse to clear the nasal passages. When performing nasal irrigation, the neti pot serves as a vessel for the salt-water rinse.

Resembling a teapot or a "genie's lamp," the neti pot has long been used in ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India and Southeast Asia).

In recent years, the use of neti pots has also gained popularity in Western countries.

How to Use a Neti Pot

Today, nasal irrigation kits are widely available in stores. However, you can also make your own salt water rinse. If you don't have a neti pot, you can perform nasal irrigation with a nasal bulb syringe.

The following is a recipe for nasal irrigation using a neti pot or nasal bulb syringe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon non-iodized salt (e.g., kosher, canning, pickling, or sea salt)
  • 8 ounces distilled or sterile room temperature water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

Instructions:

1. Mix the ingredients together in a clean container.

Stand over the bathroom sink. If using a neti pot, tilt your head sideways and place the spout into your nostril. Tilt the neti pot so that water drains from the other nostril.

If using a bulb syringe, tilt your head down and place the syringe into one nostril. Give it a gentle squeeze so that the water comes out the other nostril.

Continue this process until you've used about half of the salt water rinse.

3. Repeat for the other nostril.

4. Gargle with water.

Benefits of the Neti Pot

To date, few studies have looked at the potential health benefits of using a neti pot. However, a number of studies suggest that nasal irrigation in general may help with certain health conditions.

For example, in a 2003 report published in Canadian Family Physician, scientists note that nasal irrigation is a "simple, inexpensive treatment that relieves the symptoms of a variety of sinus and nasal conditions, reduces use of medical resources, and could help minimize antibiotic resistance."

Here's a look at other key findings from the available research on nasal irrigation:

1) Rhinosinusitis

For a 2007 report published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, scientists analyzed eight clinical trials on the use of nasal irrigation in treatment of rhinosinusitis (an inflammation of the sinuses that typically causes congestion, postnasal drip, and other symptoms). Results revealed that nasal irrigation helped improve rhinosinusitis symptoms. The study's authors also found that minor side effects were commonly associated with the use of nasal irrigation, but note that the benefits appeared to "outweigh these drawbacks for the majority of patients."

2) Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

In another report published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers looked at three clinical trials on the use of nasal irrigation for treatment of acute upper respiratory tract infections (such as the common cold). Published in 2010, the report found "limited evidence" for the benefits of nasal irrigation. The report's authors concluded that more research is needed before nasal irrigation can be recommended in treatment of acute upper respiratory tract infections.

Neti Pot Caveats

There's some concern that use of a neti pot may trigger the spread of bacteria and other potentially harmful organisms. In a 2010 report published in the journal The Laryngoscope, for instance, scientists found that nasal irrigation devices are commonly contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus (the most common cause of staph infections). And in 2011, a 51-year-old Louisiana woman died after using tap water in a neti pot and becoming infected with Naegleria fowleri (commonly referred to as the "brain-eating amoeba").

Given the risk of infection, people with acute sinus infections should avoid using neti pots (or any other type of nasal irrigation device). What's more, all individuals should take care to use only distilled or sterile water when performing nasal irrigation.

In some cases, using a neti pot may result in gagging or ear pain. If you experience either of these problems, it's likely that you're performing the technique too vigorously.

Using a neti pot may also cause fluid to drain down the back of your throat, which can lead to coughing.

Where to Buy It

Neti pots are available in many natural-food stores and some drugstores. They're also widely available for purchase online.

Using a Neti Pot for Health

If you're considering the use of a neti pot for a chronic health problem, consult your physician before beginning treatment. Your physician may be able to help you determine if a neti pot may safely and effectively treat your condition. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

Sources:

Harvey R, Hannan SA, Badia L, Scadding G. "Nasal saline irrigations for the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18;(3):CD006394.

Kassel JC, King D, Spurling GK. "Saline nasal irrigation for acute upper respiratory tract infections." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Mar 17;(3):CD006821.

Keen M, Foreman A, Wormald PJ. "The clinical significance of nasal irrigation bottle contamination." Laryngoscope. 2010 Oct;120(10):2110-4.

Papsin B, McTavish A. "Saline nasal irrigation: Its role as an adjunct treatment." Can Fam Physician. 2003 Feb;49:168-73.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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