Though nasal irrigation with salt water has been found to an effective and inexpensive treatment option for sinusitis symptom relief, neti pot use may increase the risk of recurrence. A new study reveals why and what we can do about it.
As described in a 2011 review in American Family Physician, nasal irrigation with salt water using something like a neti pot has been shown to beneficial for those suffering from sinus infections, “a safe and inexpensive treatment option for patients seeking symptom relief,” an opinion shared by none other than the Cochrane Collaboration, probably the most prestigious source of evidence-based medicine. So what’s the downside?
Well as with any alternative or complementary medicine modality there’s always a concern it could potentially delay treatment of serious disease, but for non-severe symptoms in immunocompetent individuals—just mild pain and fever, symptoms lasting less than a week—nasal irrigation can work wonders.
But the reason I bring it up is that an abstract presented at a medical conference in 2009 suggested chronic nasal irrigation may result in more frequent, recurrent attacks of sinusitis, and a new study appears to have figured out why.
People were reinfecting themselves with contaminated neti pots, called here irrigation bottles. They cultured bacteria out of 97% of the bottles collected from people who used them for recurring sinusitis. Under a microscope they demonstrated biofilm formation, bacteria stick to the inner surface so you can’t just rinse them out. The same bugs that caused your sinus infection in the first place may just be sitting there waiting to reinfect you later on. The good news is they found simple cleaning methods, washing them out with boiling water or microwaving them for 2 minutes did a good job of sterilizing them so they are ready and clean for their next use.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.
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Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out all the videos on alternative medicine, and for more on sinus health: Is milk and mucus a myth?
Check out my associated blog post for more context: The Best Way to Prevent the Common Cold?