Nasal irrigation, nasal lavage or nasal rinse with saline is an adjunctive treatment of acute or chronic sinusitis treatment, viral infections of the upper airways or of allergic rhinitis. This nasal irrigation comes from traditional ayurvedic medicine, and can be performed by means of a spray, a « neti pot », a small pear enema, etc..

This irrigation is done not with the water whose hypotonicity could have undesirable effects in contact with nasopharyngeal mucosa, but with isotonic solutions (saline), and hypertonic in some cases. Some solutions are sterile and others are not.

The saline is instilled into one nostril and drains through the other nostril or swallowing.

The exact mechanism of action of nasal irrigation is not really known and nasal irrigation has side effects.

Use of nasal irrigation

Nasal irrigation is used for chronic sinusitis, rhinosinusitis, allergic rhinitis or infections of the upper airways

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Risks and Limitations

As stated previously, nasal irrigation can be only an adjunctive treatment and cannot be used over the long term. Indeed, a 2009 study found that repeated use of nasal irrigation can lead to sinus infection. This possible sinus infection is the result of an alteration of the nasal mucosa and immunology.

In addition, the presence in the solution of bacteria or protists can be harmful or fatal. And the protist Naegleria fowleri killed at least two people after generating among individuals in question infection meningoencephalitis fatal. To avoid this, it is necessary to ensure the sterility of the solution and boil if it is not proven. Note that chlorine does not eliminate Naegleria fowleri. Tap water must be distilled or boiled before being injected into the nose.

Using a « neti pot » can also be risky. In fact water can be found trapped in the porous walls of the nose even in the sinuses. This is even more likely that the individual leans her head to the left or right.

When using a « neti pot » flexible by penetrating saline through a pressure on it, the user has no real control over the pressure it exerts. If too much pressure, water can be made to enter the inner ear can cause infection of the latter.