Sinus Rinses for Health – Benefits and Tips for Use
If the idea of rinsing out our sinuses makes you squeamish, here are some easy suggestions for trying it out. Your nose will thank you!
There are three main ways to rinse or flush out your sinuses:
- Nasal Spray
- Neti Pot
- Waterpik with a nasal attachment
Nasal Spray – Benefits and Tips for Use
The easiest method is a saline nasal spray. Simply squeeze one or two squirts into each nostril to moisturize and cleanse the nasal passages near your nose. I use a nasal spray with my 2- and 4-year-olds and they consider it a treat because it makes their noses feel so much better. In the case of thick congestion, the spray loosens the mucus to allow them to blow it out. In the case of a drippy runny nose, the spray rinses away the drippiness. It allows my kiddos to blow their nose one or two times to get all the slippy-drippies out, rather than sniffling all day long.
If you live in a dry climate or are inside air conditioned buildings a lot, a nasal spray can quickly and easily hydrate your nose for comfort and to prevent dryness-induced nosebleeds.
There are multiple great saline spray brands out there. I keep Simply Saline Sterile Saline Nasal Mist in my home. The nozzle is good for quick little squirts or a longer spray to deliver more moisture to your sinus passages. You can use it sitting or standing up normally, or to really get it into all your sinus passages, spray it up your nose and then hang your head upside down between your knees to allow the clean fluids to flow to all your upper sinuses. Stay upside down for 30 seconds or so, stand up carefully, and blow your nose in some tissue to rinse out the spray and any mucus it freed.
This is exactly the Neti Pot I use.
This is the nasal cleansing salt I use.
Neti Pot – Benefits and Tips for Use
A Neti Pot is easy to use but intimidating for some. A Neti Pot looks a little bit like a genie’s lamp, and my children regularly steal mine to use it as such.
Prepare for your Neti Pot sinus rinse by heating approximately one cup of distilled, sterile or previously boiled water. I microwave my water in a glass measuring cup. Add approximately ¼ teaspoon nasal cleansing salt and stir until the salt has completely dissolved. Pour half of the warm water into your Neti Pot. Tip your head over your sink with your left ear down toward the sink drain, making sure that your forehead is slightly lower than your chin. Put the spout of the Neti Pot in your right nostril and allow the fluids to be pulled by gravity into your sinus cavities. The water will flow out your left nostril into the sink. Repeat with the rest of the water on your other nostril.
Note that with any of these rinses, you will not be swallowing the water. Keep your forehead lower than your chin in order to prevent the water from flowing down your throat. This will also keep your airway clear so you can breathe comfortably through your mouth throughout the entire rinse.
The Neti Pot is a more thorough way to rinse your sinuses than nasal spray. As you can imagine, the spray squirts a mist into your sinuses, while the Neti Pot actually fills and irrigates your sinuses. A Neti Pot offers the same benefits as a nasal spray, plus it does a better job of reducing the frequency and duration of illness by rinsing out germs and reducing allergy symptoms by flushing away allergens. The Neti Pot also does a better job of saturating thick, stubborn mucus to allow it to loosen up and evacuate your sinuses, which can prevent or even clear up a sinus infection.
Waterpik with Nasal Attachment – Benefits and Tips for Use
You are probably most familiar with a Waterpik from your dentist’s use during a cleaning. The Waterpik can also be purchased for home use with a nasal attachment to push a pressurized stream of water through your sinuses.
Prepare for your Waterpik sinus rinse by putting approximately four cups of warm tap or distilled water in a measuring cup. Add approximately ¼ teaspoon nasal cleansing salt per cup of water and stir until the salt has completely dissolved. Pour the four cups of water into the reservoir of your Waterpik and turn it on. You will see the warm water pulse gently out of the end of the nasal attachment. Lean your head over your sink as you did for the Neti Pot, and insert the Waterpik’s nasal attachment in your upper nostril so the water can flow out your lower nostril.
The Waterpik sinus rinse is great for everyday use, but earns its money with the pulsing pressure to more aggressively hydrate and flush out stubborn, thickened mucus. If you have chronic sinus problems, or a particularly stubborn sinus infection, a Waterpik is definitely worth the investment. For more extreme sinus problems, a Waterpik will do more for your sinuses than a Neti Pot.
What’s the benefit of salt? Salt aids in clearing up congestion. Nasal cleansing salt is different from table salt. Nasal cleansing salt has a finer grain and dissolves more quickly in water, and it feels milder on the nose. If you don’t have nasal cleansing salt, just use warm water or keep your head over a boiling pot of hot water and inhale the steam.
Can I use tap water? Until recently, it was perfectly fine to use tap water. In December 2011 it was reported that two people died in Louisiana due to an amoeba infection from tap water in neti pots. So, play it safe and use distilled, sterile or previously boiled water.
Should I buy a ceramic or plastic Neti Pot? I've had both and I recommend the plastic Neti Pot because it is lightweight, durable, and inexpensive. You don't want to lug a heavy, fragile ceramic Neti Pot in your bag on your next vacation.
What if it hurts? Flushing your sinuses with the Neti Pot or a Waterpik will take a little bit of practice before you feel comfortable with it. If you find that it hurts, here are some things to try:
- Adjust the salt content of the water. Your nose may prefer slightly more or less salt than I have recommended here.
- Adjust the temperature of the water. Your nose may prefer slightly warmer or cooler water. Experiment to see what feels best.
- Try a different type of water. If you’re experiencing pain with boiled water, try distilled water.
If your sinuses still hurt, stop using the nasal rinses and consult your doctor. I once had a stubborn sinus infection with a lot of nasal irritation that made it very painful for me to rinse my sinuses. Each time I tried to flush my sinuses they became painfully swollen, requiring me to ice my face to bring down the swelling and pain. After two rounds of antibiotics and a run a steroids, the irritation in my sinuses went away and I was able to resume nasal rinses to facilitate clearing the mucus.
What nasal rinses can I use with my kids? With my 2- and 4-year-olds I use only nasal spray. They are very curious about my Neti Pot and Waterpik but I think we’ll hold off on that for later. I’m not comfortable with using the Neti Pot or Waterpik with my little ones.
How often should I rinse my sinuses? Your optimal frequency depends on your sinus issues and what you’re trying to achieve. I rinse my sinuses with at least a spray every day in order to ward off sinus infections. Some people enjoy decreased allergy symptoms by using their Neti Pot once a week for most of the year and then daily during allergy season.
A Map of Your Sinuses
Your sinuses are an extensive honeycomb of compartments in your forehead, cheeks and nose. Sinuses can become clogged with mucus, causing headaches, migranes, eye pain, facial tenderness, and even blurred vision. Nasal rinses deliver cleansing fluids to all of your little sinus pockets.
Relief is Just a Rinse Away
If you are new to sinus rinses, experiment slowly with these options to find what works best for you. I was very skeptical for sinus rinses through about five years of sinus problems. My mind was changed when a vacation to Hawaii cleared up my sinus infection. While on vacation I accidentally got water up my nose while snorkeling, with immediate positive results for my sinuses. Luckily, we don’t have to take a long flight to Hawaii to clear up our sinus problems. With these three options, sinus relief is just a rinse away.