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Neti pot

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Neti pots: Just tilt and pour

  • Article by: ELIZABETH DEHN
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • November 16, 2011 - 9:40 AM

After two excruciating sinus infections in one winter, Krista Schweppe began using a neti pot at the recommendation of a massage therapist.

"Seven years later, and I have yet to experience another sinus infection," she said. "I also use decongestants like Nyquil or Mucinex less frequently." For the St. Paul teacher, prevention is essential. "I'm exposed to so many germs and illnesses on a daily basis.

Sanskrit for "nasal cleaning," neti is the practice of flushing out mucus, pollution, bacteria and allergens using a simple solution of salt, a natural decongestant, and water forced through the nasal passageway.

The neti pot has exploded in popularity thanks in part to an appearance on the Oprah show and its wide availability at drug and natural food stores. The small teapot-shaped device costs around $10 for a plastic version or more for a traditional ceramic pot.

"I have asthma and a history of being very susceptible to upper respiratory infection," said Stephanie Meyer of Hopkins. "Since I started using a neti pot, I've been able to prevent colds from turning into sinus infections or bronchitis." Meyer introduced the neti pot to her teenage son, who has seasonal allergies, and claims there's been a difference in the number of times per year that he gets sick.

It's not just their imagination.

"Not only does a neti pot mechanically clear out mucus that's causing the congestion, but also eliminates a breeding ground for infection," said Dr. Jamie Lyn Reinschmidt, a family physician at North Suburban Family Physicians in Roseville, who recommends sinus washes to kids and adults alike. "I often show a neti pot demonstration on YouTube to my patients."

They are fairly simple to use.: Fill the neti pot with warm water and 1/8 to 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt (table or the pre-measured packets sold with most pots); tilt your head over the sink at a 45-degree angle, place the spout into your nostril, and gently pour in the saline solution. The fluid will flow through the nasal cavity and out the other nostril. Refill the neti pot and repeat the process on the other nostril. It's not a pretty sight, but those who know the benefits of a neti pot are more than happy to overlook that fact.

Others aren't convinced. Sasha Weston of Minneapolis tried a neti pot because she liked the benefits it offered, but gave up after one use. "It felt unnatural and was too much trouble between mixing the solution, pouring, and cleaning up the mess," she said.

Unlike over-the-counter medications or antibiotics, the neti pot can be used as often as needed without fear of allergic reactions, drug interactions or side effects. Some people report using it morning and night year-round as a preventive measure, while others reach for a rinse after traveling, exposure to germs, or whenever they feel congestion coming on.

Short-term use

At least one study cautions against overuse of neti pots. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that overusing nasal rinses can make you susceptible to more sinus infections. The study found that short-term use of the washes is fine, but that daily use can change the biochemistry of the nose.

But for Tom Matchinsky, the neti pot was the solution to the vocal issues he experienced as a result of persistent post-nasal drip. A professional singer from Edina, he sought advice from Dr. George S. Godding Jr., an ear, nose and throat specialist at the University of Minnesota. Godding recommended twice-daily rinsing with a neti pot.

"Now I use it intermittently as needed," said Matchinsky, "generally during allergy season, when I've got a cold, or during the really dry winter months. It definitely reduces the duration of a cold and eases the symptoms of seasonal allergies."

Allergist Dr. Pamela Harris, of Park Nicollet Clinic in St. Louis Park, agrees. "I am a fan of nasal saline sprays and washes. They don't take away allergies, but if you can get the phlegm moving and flowing it tends to minimize symptoms. There's no downside to trying one."

"It's life-changing," said Meyer.

Minneapolis-based lifestyle writer Elizabeth Dehn is the founder of beautybets.com

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