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Doctor, I always have sinus congestion and post nasal drip.
People keep telling me to try using nasal saline irrigation. Will it help me?
Salt water nasal washes have been used for centuries but recently have been popularized as an alternative to allergy/sinus medications and antibiotics.
Nasal congestion and post nasal drainage can result from allergies, viral infections, sinusitis or other forms of rhinitis.
Nasal saline irrigations have been shown to reduce the symptoms of chronic sinusitis and allergic rhinitis. Patients with chronic sinusitis who used daily saline irrigations reported fewer sinus symptoms and used less antibiotics and nasal sprays.1 For some patients, rinsing out their nose has become part of their daily routine like brushing their teeth and washing their face. The theory behind why saline irrigations help includes clearing mucous from the nose, removing allergens, viruses and bacteria, as well as decreasing tissue swelling.
There are various different methods available for preforming nasal rinses.
- Neti pot with which you pour the saline in one side of your nose and it drains out the other side using gravity
- Squeeze bottles which use positive pressure
- Controlled pressure spray canisters
- Pulsating irrigators
If a Neti pot or squeeze bottle is used, it is important to wash and dry the container appropriately. Salt water rinses can be purchased or made at home. Saline solution is composed by mixing prepackaged or homemade buffered salt with distilled water. Tap water directly from the faucet should NOT be used for nasal irrigations. Sterile nasal saline can be bought ready to use which eliminates the need to mix and clean the container.
Mild adverse effects of nasal irrigations including a stinging/burning sensation or ear pain/fullness will often resolve with modification of technique or saline tonicity. Stop irrigations if symptoms persist or worsen. Infection concerns arise in the setting of improper use which include a contaminated source of water and not cleaning the vessel.
To learn more about Dr. Belinda Mantle or nasal irrigation, please visit www.ohni.org.
1. Rabago D, et al. J Fam Pract. 2002 Dec; 51(12):1049-55. Efficacy of daily hypertonic saline nasal irrigation among patients with sinusitis: a randomized controlled trial.