Nasal Irrigation for the Do-It-Yourselfer
What is nasal irrigation?
Nasal irrigation as a health practice has been around for quite some time, originating in an ancient yoga tradition. In recent years, growing scientific evidence suggests that this is one of the best techniques for alleviating congestion. Many people have found that nasal irrigation works wonders on preventing colds, relieving nasal swelling and sinus pressure, and curing a stuffy nose. It’s also an effective practice to help prevent sinus infections, which are especially common during the winter months.
If you’re struggling with winter colds and congestion, you may want to try nasal irrigation yourself to relieve these symptoms and breathe easier (plus ward off sinus infections). You can buy products for nasal irrigation and pre-mixed saline wash. But nasal irrigation is also a fairly easy treatment to do on your own at home. For the courageous do-it-yourselfer, here are a few tips.
Mixing the solution
The saline solution that most people find works best is one with a similar salt content to human body fluids. This is called an “isotonic” saline solution, and it is the most soothing mixture for the sinuses. To mix, combine ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp baking soda, and 8 oz warm water. It’s recommended that you use water that is filtered or distilled, and a non-iodized canning salt.
A “hypertonic” saline solution is more like ocean water, with a higher concentration of salt. This saltier solution will relieve swelling more, but it is also more irritating to the sinuses.
You should not use plain water for nasal irrigation. If the solution you rinse with has less salt content than your sinus tissues, your sinuses will absorb the water, becoming more swollen.
How to use the solution
You will need a container with a narrow spout, such as a bottle, neti pot, or bulb syringe. Once you have your container, and your saline solution (which should be at a lukewarm temperature), you’re ready to go. Follow these simple steps:
1. Lower your head over the sink.
2. Turn your neck to one side, so that one nostril is down.
3. Pour the solution into the upper nostril.
4. The solution should drain out of the lower nostril, down into the sink. (Try plugging the other nostril to aid this process.)
5. Gently blow nose.
6. Repeat this process with the other nostril.
Remember to breathe steadily through your mouth! If you forget to breathe evenly through your mouth, you may accidentally inhale the solution.
You should not use nasal irrigation if you have frequent nose bleeds or if you are currently suffering from acute sinusitis. In general, nasal irrigation is safe and harmless, and can be done daily with no side effects.