Rinsing out your nose with salt water is also called nasal saline irrigation or nasal saline lavage.
Salt water washes help in:
- Wash out dry thick mucus
- Wash away things that trigger allergies like pollen, mold spores or dirt
- Improve the function of cilia which clear up the sinuses
- Reduce post nasal drip
- Make the nose feel more comfortable by keeping the lining of the nose moist
It is recommended that you rinse out your nose with salt water when you have:
- A stuffy or runny nose from a cold or allergies
- Post-nasal drip – This happens when mucus from your nose drips down the back of your throat.
- Sinusitis – This condition causes mucus, a stuffy nose, poor sense of smell and pain in the face.
You can buy saline nose drops at a pharmacy, or you can make your own saline solution:
- Add 1 cup (240 mL) distilled water to a clean container. If you use tap water, boil it first to sterilize it, and then let it cool until it is lukewarm.
- Add 0.5 tsp (2.5 g) salt to the water.
- Add 0.5 tsp (2.5 g) baking soda.
You can store homemade saline solution at room temperature for 3 – 7 days.
There are several nasal irrigation devices that may be used for saline wash including
The procedure is as follows:
- Fill a large medical syringe, squeeze bottle, or nasal cleansing pot (such as a Neti Pot) with the saline solution, insert the tip into your nostril, and squeeze gently.
- Aim the stream of saline solution toward the back of your head, not toward the top.
- The saline wash should go through the nose and out the mouth or the other side of the nose.
- Blow your nose gently after the saline wash unless your doctor has told you not to blow your nose.
- Repeat several times every day.
- Clean the syringe or bottle after each use.
Some people rinse out their nose every day. Others rinse only when they have symptoms. You can safely rinse out your nose a few times per day.
ENT doctors recommend daily rinsing for people with sinusitis that lasts more than 3 months (called “chronic sinusitis”.)
If you use nasal sprays to treat your symptoms, use them after your rinse out your nose
What does safe use mean? First, rinse only with distilled, sterile or previously boiled water.
Tap water isn’t safe for use as a nasal rinse because it’s not adequately filtered or treated. Some tap water contains low levels of organisms — such as bacteria and protozoa, including amoebas — that may be safe to swallow because stomach acid kills them. But in your nose, these organisms can stay alive in nasal passages and cause potentially serious infections.
- Distilled or sterile water, which you can buy in stores. The label will state “distilled” or “sterile.”
- Boiled and cooled tap water — boiled for 3 to 5 minutes, then cooled until it is lukewarm. Previously boiled water can be stored in a clean, closed container for use within 24 hours.
- Water passed through a filter designed to trap potentially infectious organisms.
It’s imperative the device fits the age of the person using it. Some children are diagnosed with nasal allergies as early as age 2 and could use nasal rinsing devices at that time, if a pediatrician or ENT doctor recommends it. But very young children might not tolerate the procedure.
The content on the Nairobi ENT website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions.