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Neti pots are an age-old and simple way to rinse the sinuses. Although they are typically used to provide short-term relief from nasal congestion, some people use them regularly to keep their passages clean and clear. Though they have proven benefits, these popular pots also come with some significant health risks and concerns, so proper use is essential.

Neti Pot Basics

Neti pots typically look like small teapots, with a central basin attached to a long spout designed to fit into the nostril.

The term is also used more broadly to describe any nasal irrigation device, which can include squeeze bottles, syringes, or pumping devices. All of these products are designed to gently push a small stream of liquid through your nasal cavity.

Young woman using neti pot after yoga pratice South_agency/ Getty Images

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The Health Benefits of Neti Pots

Neti pots are effective for reducing some symptoms of common illnesses such as the cold, flu, and sinus infections. Nasal irrigation breaks up heavy mucus, which can make it easier and more comfortable to breathe. It can also help flush pollen and other allergens out of the nasal cavity, which can reduce some allergy symptoms.

Some people experience uncomfortably dry nasal cavities at times, and nasal irrigation with a saline solution can help hydrate them. However, plain water may cause minor irritation.

Ceramic Neti pot for nasal cleansing, wooden humidifier, salt lamp and nasal spray Betka82/ Getty Images

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What Is The Liquid?

Choosing the right liquid is one of the most important factors in safely using a neti pot. Typically, manufacturers recommend a saline solution, which is a mix of salt and water. Some people use plain water. However, the water must be treated in some way to remove microorganisms and other contaminants that could cause a sinus infection or other health issues.

Commercial neti pot solutions are available for purchase in many health stores and pharmacies; distilled or sterile water is also typically safe to use.

One beautiful young woman using neti pot at home after yoga practice. South_agency/ Getty Images

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How to Use a Neti Pot

It's important to remember that each nasal irrigation device can vary slightly, especially with bulb syringes or other alternatives, so users should always check the manufacturer's instructions. The general requirements call for the user to stand over a sink or other basin and tilt their head to the side. The nozzle of the device is placed in the nostril that's higher up, and the user squirts or pours a thin stream of liquid into the nose.

Gravity and slight pressure cause the liquid to flow out the bottom nostril. Once that side is completed, the process is repeated with the head tilted to the other side.

Young female looking at mirror while using neti pot. Neustockimages/ Getty Images

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Homemade Saline Solution

Boiling water is one of the most common and effective ways to create a homemade neti pot solution. Tap water is a fine place to start for this, but be sure to keep the water at a boil for at least one minute to ensure all microorganisms are dead. At elevations above 6,500 feet, the CDC recommends boiling the water for at least three minutes. Afterwards, allow the water to cool before using.

For salt, canning or pickling salt is best. Table salt contains additives that may cause problems.

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Filters and Disinfectants

If purchasing distilled water or boiling aren't viable options, you can also use a filter to make the water safe for nasal irrigation, though this is not generally recommended if other options are available. Not all filters effectively remove dangerous microorganisms, so it's essential that the filter is labeled as NSF 53 or NSF 58. Filters that are labeled as being for "cyst removal" are also typically effective.

Chlorine bleach can also be used as a disinfectant, but this is the least reliable method and may still result in infections.

a white neti pot on blue background, with salt nullplus/ Getty Images

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Neti Pot Care

The specific details can vary depending on the device and manufacturer, so users should always rely primarily on the manufacturer's instructions. However, in general, it's important to make sure to rinse the neti pot with clean, distilled, or otherwise disinfected water after use. The device should be thoroughly flushed and then allowed to dry completely before being put away.

Neti pots should always be washed between uses and before anyone else uses the same pot.

set for the use of neti pot, ayurvedic system for cleaning nose with water and pink salt from Hymalaia Andrea Migliarini/ Getty Images

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Construction and Materials

Neti pots can be made from a variety of materials. Traditionally, most were constructed from porcelain or glass. In modern times, lightweight plastic is often preferred for its strength and durability. Many neti pots are dishwasher and microwave safe, so they are easy to sanitize, but some alternative devices may require hand washing and additional cleaning.

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Risks and Dangers

The primary danger with neti pots comes from using contaminated or untreated water. Many water sources contain microorganisms that are harmless to drink but can cause infections if introduced through the sinus cavity. The most concerning is an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri, which can be fatal. However, numerous other bacteria and protozoa can also cause health issues.

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When to See a Doctor

It's always a good idea to consult with a doctor before using a new health treatment, including neti pots. It's especially important for people with compromised immune systems since neti pots do come with a risk of infection.

Children can generally use neti pots as well, but parents should talk to a pediatrician before using them on young children since there is a risk of inhaling the water into the deeper nasal passage.

Doctor discussing with woman over laptop. Female is visiting healthcare worker in clinic. They are sitting at desk. Morsa Images/ Getty Images

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.

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