Nasal Irrigation Relief for Colds
January 6, 2023
Nasal irrigation is a great way to treat various issues, such as allergies, sinusitis, and rhinitis. When done right, it is also very safe. Even pretty young children have learned how to use these techniques to reduce the need for other medical or surgical treatments. It is one of the few things in medicine that is safe, cheap, and works!
Nasal irrigation: a way to get rid of a cold
The idea behind nasal irrigation is to put a steady stream of water into one nostril. This is more water than a spray or mist.
First, the flow cleans dirt, dust, and dried mucus out of the nasal airway mechanically. This makes breathing easier for the nose and helps the sinuses drain better. Second, keeping the inside of the nose moist helps the surface cells work better to fight off infection. And third, the water works like a safe and natural decongestant because it is a salt solution. By osmosis, the salt water pulls water out of the nasal tissue, which helps clear up stuffy airways caused by a cold, allergies, or sinusitis. You can change how much salt is in the solution to make this last function stronger, but it’s best to start with a weaker solution and work your way up, so it doesn’t get too irritating.
There are different ways to rinse your nose. A Neti Pot is what I’ve found to be the safest and most effective way to do this, especially for kids. This is a tiny “teapot” with a bulb at the end of the spout that easily fits into the nose. There are different kinds of Neti Pots, some made of simple plastic and some made of more fancy ceramic, but they all do the same thing. A well-known one is made by the company NeilMed. Find the right angle to tilt your head, say “ah” while the water is running, and practice. Watch the video below if you need help.
Use a squeeze bottle as another method. This adds more pressure, but I think it’s hard for many kids, and if it’s done wrong, it can be uncomfortable. The Neti Pot is powered by gravity, so it’s less likely to hurt or make you choke until you get used to it. Some people find it helpful to use a powered divide called a Navage, but this may be too aggressive for many children.
When making these solutions, it is essential to use clean water. Even though nasal irrigation is safe, there have been reports of infections that could kill you or put your life in danger if you use dirty water. I think the safest way to do this is to make enough irrigation solution for a week, put it in the fridge, and use it to fill the Neti Pot, letting it warm up to room temperature. The best way to ensure that the water used to make the solution is clean is to boil it. Just make sure to put any opened bottles in the fridge. Some filters (0.2 microns or smaller) are good enough to get rid of germs in tap water, but they don’t always work well, so it’s better to boil the water.
Most nasal irrigation devices come with packets of irrigating solution mixed with clean water. You can also buy Xylitol, a natural plant substance that helps treat nasal irritation. Even though these packages are convenient (especially when traveling), you can make your irrigation solution in bulk and have better control over the ingredients. If you follow the instructions on the package, you might end up with a pretty strong irrigation solution that can sting or burn. If that’s the case, you can use less of the contents of the package in each bottle of solution to make a more watered-down liquid. After a while, you might be able to use the full-strength solution again (which works better for keeping the nose decongested).