How To Use a Neti Pot

A stuffed-up nose is so annoying, especially when you’re trying to sleep! If you’re in need of a natural solution, consider trying nasal irrigation, or Neti. It’s an ancient tradition gaining popularity in the modern world for its effectiveness at treating allergies, sinus infections, and colds, among other things.

What does the neti pot do?

Basically, what the neti pot does is gently wash away excess mucous, bacteria, pollen, allergens and viruses from the sinuses. There's one main sinus a neti pot flush can reach—the maxillary sinus, which is on either side of your nose. It's basically inside the "cheek bone."  When they fill with pus or mucous, it hurts. Not only does it hurt, but it provides a further haven for more bacteria and viruses as the immune system cannot enter. The door is closed.

Nasal irrigation opens that door by washing out the pus and mucous. Then, the immune system's IgA antibodies, which live on the mucous membranes of your nose, once again get back to work.

How to use the neti pot

I’ll admit, neti pots are an odd device to get used to but once you get the technique down, your sinuses will appreciate it. Not to mention your friends as you'll stop sniffing constantly.

  • Fill your neti pot with luke warm, distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water. Not cold or hot water. Must be warm.
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure salt. Your mucous membranes are naturally salty and a pinch of salt in your neti pot will help to wash out the stuck mucous. Do not use mineral salts or sea salts. Some people are allergic to shellfish and this will not help the situation. One can buy pure neti salt and it's not expensive. Normal table salt is fine also but it is processed like crazy - they use about 15+ chemicals to end up with pure white table salt. You didn't want to know that did you?
  • You can add a pinch of baking soda also. This softens the water a bit so it's easier on your mucous membranes.
  • I recommend doing this procedure in the shower. This way you cannot make a mess. You can also do it over a sink or sitting down with a big bowl on the table in front of you.
  • Insert the neti pot spout into one side of your nose. Lean your head slightly to one side and forward a bit. This allows the medicated water to flow from one side of your nose to the other. This action pushes out the mucous and also drops off the medicated water in your sinuses.
  • Stay in this head bent and tilted position while the water runs out - say for about 15 seconds.
  • When 15 seconds is up, remove the spout and gently blow your nose. Do not block one nostril while blowing your nose as this forces the mucous up closer to your brain. Also do not blow forcibly as this will push the mucous into your ear canal. Just blow lightly - like a soft outward snort.
  • Repeat on the other side. Do this about 2-3 times each side. Refill the neti pot as needed. Typically this can be done sufficiently with one full neti pot.
  • This takes about 3 minutes. Sounds like a lot of work but it's fast - especially as you do it more and more.
  • Rinse out the neti pot or place it in the dishwasher to sterilize. Let your neti pot dry out after each use. I recommend buying one for each person of the family. This way you don't have to wash it so hard every time.

If you feel the neti pot technique is not working for you and causing burning, consider:

  • Adding a bit more salt.
  • Adding a bit less salt.
  • Adding a pinch of baking soda as this softens the water.
  • Use filtered water as chlorine is an irritant and definitely can burn your nose.
  • Warm the water in the neti pot to body temperature.
  • Only neti when your nose is plugged up.

Should you have questions about the technique, please post a comment.  

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods 

Pieces of this article by Dr. Ben Lynch, ND, posted 04/2007 on Healthy Goods.


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