Maybe you’ve seen them in a friend’s bathroom or on the shelves in the health section of your local store: funny-looking little teapots with long, slender spouts that are supposed to make your nose feel better. Neti pots have their ardent fans, a contingent that has expanded in the United States in recent years. If you’re new to the neti world, you might be wondering how to use them, what they’re for - and if they really work.
What are neti pots?
Neti pots are nasal-rinsing devices. They allow you to pour a small amount of water in one nostril and have it come out the other, flushing the nasal cavity. There are other types of nasal irrigation devices on the market, including squeeze bottles and bulb-style syringes. There are even battery-powered irrigators. But neti pots are teapot-shaped containers that are simply meant to send a small stream of water from one side of the nose to the other.
Nasal irrigation has its roots in ancient wellness practices. It goes back thousands of years to their use in places like India, according to the New York Times. These days, sinus rinsing and the use of neti pots is deemed safe by agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The benefits include:
- Treats congested sinuses in cases of colds or allergies
- Hydrates dry nasal passages
The biggest drawback, according to the FDA, is that it is not safe to use regular tap water in a neti pot. Water from your home’s faucet can carry low levels of some tiny living organisms - like amoebas or bacteria. If you drink this water, your stomach acid kills these unfriendly organisms. But when you sluice tap water through your nose, these little organisms don’t always die. They can stick around inside the nasal passages. This can cause infections. In rare cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says these infections can be fatal.
What kind of water should you use in a neti pot?
Even though you should not use unboiled tap water, there are a few different types of water you can use safely in a neti pot to relieve your nasal congestion and moisten the inside of a dry nose:
- Tap water that has been boiled for 5 minutes, then cooled to lukewarm
- Previously boiled and cooled water that has been stored in a clean, securely closed container. It should be used within 24 hours
- Distilled water
- Water labeled “sterile” or a saline solution
- Water that has been put through a filter specially designed to get rid of organisms that can cause infections
Step-by-step guide to using a neti pot
Each neti pot will come with instructions from the manufacturer. But here’s an easy guide to using a neti pot that will cover most models.
- Use a neti pot either in the shower or while standing over a sink
- Fill the pot with water
- Tilt your head - with your chin and forehead level with each other - as you lean over the sink
- Breathe through your mouth
- Put the spout in the upper nostril and begin pouring the water. It will come out the lower nostril
- Blow your nose or clear your nostrils
- Repeat the process on the other side, tilting your head the other direction
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