Given the “brain-eating amoeba” (Naegleria fowleri) in tap water should I sterilize my neti pot water?

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Dr Greger- I love your informative videos. Thanks so much. I have not missed a day of nosewashing since 1995. I rinse out my neti pots and have never had any trouble but perhaps I should clean them in the dishwasher ? I read an article about 2 deaths linked to a “brain-eating amoeba” called Naegleria fowleri in tap water used in a neti pot in the south. The article says that that amoeba is rare and usually found in the WARM fresh water lakes and rivers of the south – Florida and Louisana & around there. I’m in California – should I now boil my nosewashing water & let it cool?

shellbelle / Originally posted on The risks and benefits of neti pot nasal irrigation

Answer:

I do recommend you effectively sterilize your neti pots using one of the two methods I describe in my Risks and Benefits of Neti Pot Nasal Irrigation video.

In terms of Naegleria fowleri, it’s not really an amoeba but it does appear to eat brains. It apparently invades through the lining of the nose and climbs along the olfactory nerve fibers into the brain, causing a nearly invariably fatal meningoencephalitis (about 99% of reported victims die).

Thankfully it’s extremely rare (only about 3 cases a year reported in United States). It is a thermophilic (warmth loving) organism, and indeed most cases are reported in the South, but there was a case up in Minnesota last year, so I agree with the new safety advisory that one should use only distilled or previously boiled (and cooled) water to irrigate one’s nose. Bottled water isn’t recommended since it may be even more biologically contaminated (see my video Bottled Water vs. Tap).

Image Credit: Portland, OR Govt / usa.gov

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  • M. K.

    If it isn’t an amoeba, then what is it?

  • Ilana

    If I rinse my netipot with boiling water before I use it, is plastic okay or should I get a ceramic one?

    • HarleyKaren

      So much plastic these days has BPA which isn t a good thing. Ceramic or glass would be preferable…stay away from products made in China tho.

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