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nasal irrigation

Updated on January 10, 2008

To alleviate irritating nasal problems, your doctor may recommend nasal irrigation (nasal lavage).

This involves flushing out thickened mucus and irritants from your nose. Nasal irrigation is appropriate for children and adults, and can be done in the privacy of your own home.

Your nose serves as your body's main filtering, warming and humidifying system. It can produce more than a quart of mucus a day,

which is your body's way to trap particles such as harmful bacteria, viruses, dust, allergens and mold.

Often they wash down the back of your throat. But sometimes these allergens and irritants become stuck in the lining of your nose.

This can cause an allergic reaction and can lead to a sinus infection.

An allergic reaction results in inflammation, hindering the ability of your nasal lining to flush toxins from your nose. This is just one example of when nasal irrigation is useful.

To perform nasal irrigation, you need a few simple materials:

  • A bulb syringe
  • A 1/4-teaspoon measuring spoon
  • A measuring cup
  • Salt
  • A small basin or sink

First, wash your hands with soap and water. Then, mix 1/4 teaspoon of salt with 2 cups of warm water, about body temperature.

The salt water is called an isotonic solution because it is a nonirritating mixture with the same saltiness as your body fluids. If you have iodine sensitivity, noniodized salt can be used.

Squeeze the air from the syringe and draw as much saline as possible from the basin. Turn the syringe upright, squeeze to remove any remaining air, and again draw the saline to completely fill the syringe.

Next, bend over the sink. Resist the urge to tip your head back. Instead, lean slightly toward the sink. Gently insert the tip of the syringe into your nose.

You should insert the syringe a distance equivalent to the width of your fingertip. Do not insert it all the way into your nose. Angle the tip of the syringe toward the outer corner of your eye, then slowly squeeze the bulb so that the liquid gently squirts into your nose.

Let the solution drain from your nostril. It may come out of your other nostril or from your mouth. Repeat on both sides of your nose, using two syringefuls in each nostril.

Finally, clean up your supplies. With fresh, clean water, fill the syringe then squeeze out the fluid. Repeat several times so that the water coming out is clear. Dry the bulb syringe and store it in a cup or container.


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