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

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

Dr. Michael Greger

About Michael Greger M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

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