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Just How Safe Are Neti Pots?

MONDAY, Aug. 9, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- When your sinuses are clogged, you will try anything to ease the congestion: neti pots, bulb syringes, squeeze bottles and even battery-operated pulsed water devices.

But improper use of these nasal irrigation devices can put you at risk for infection, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration expert warns.

The products, which treat congested sinuses, colds and allergies, are safe and effective when used and cleaned properly, according to Dr. Eric Mann.

First, talk to your health care provider to determine whether nasal rinsing will be safe or effective for your condition, he said.

Only certain types of water should be used in the devices: distilled, sterile water; water that's been passed through a filter designed to trap potentially infectious organisms; or water that's been boiled for 3 to 5 minutes and cooled. Previously boiled water can be stored in a clean, closed container for use within 24 hours.

But tap water is not safe because it's not adequately filtered or treated to remove organisms that can cause potentially serious infections in nasal passages, Mann said.

"There are various ways to deliver saline to the nose. Nasal spray bottles deliver a fine mist and might be useful for moisturizing dry nasal passages. But irrigation devices are better at flushing the nose and clearing out mucus, allergens and bacteria," Mann said in an FDA news release.

It's important to follow the instructions on the proper use and care of the devices:

  • First, wash and dry your hands.
  • Check that the device is clean and completely dry.
  • Prepare the saline rinse, either with the prepared mixture supplied with the device, or one you make yourself.
  • Follow the manufacturer's directions for use.
  • Wash the device, and dry the inside with a paper towel or let it air dry between uses.

If you have immune system problems, talk with your health care provider before using any nasal irrigation systems, Mann advised.

It's also important to make sure the device fits the age of the person using it. Some children are diagnosed with nasal allergies as early as age 2 and could use nasal rinsing devices if a pediatrician recommends it. But very young children might not tolerate nasal irrigation.

If your symptoms don't improve or worsen after nasal rinsing, return to your health care provider, especially if you have fever, nosebleeds or headaches while using the nasal rinse, Mann said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on saline nasal washes.

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release

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