Flush Away Sinus Pain

Healthnotes Newswire (September 28, 2006)—People suffering from chronic nasal and sinus inflammation (rhinosinusitis) might finally have a solution that really works. It’s called nasal irrigation, and a new study in the Annals of Family Medicine finds that users of the therapy are very pleased with this drug-free approach to symptom relief.

Chronic rhinosinusitis is a common reason for doctor’s visits and antibiotic prescriptions. Because it causes considerable pain and discomfort, people are often willing to try just about anything to cure their symptoms and to keep them from coming back.

Nasal irrigation has its roots in India. Using a device called a neti pot or a nasal irrigation cup, a saline (salt) solution is washed through the nose and sinuses, taking with it disease-causing germs and other irritants, as well as mucus that clogs the nasal passages.

To do this, mix one teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda into a pint of warm filtered water and place into a nasal irrigation cup. Lean over a sink and look directly down into the basin. Tip the head to one side, so that one nostril is directly above the other. Place the tip of the nasal irrigation cup into the upper nostril to form a seal. Slowly pour the solution into the upper nostril; it will come out of the lower nostril. Repeat these steps on the other side.

Studies have shown that nasal irrigation relieves the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis. The authors of the new study wanted to know specifically how nasal irrigation helped people, what was most difficult about performing it, and what would make it easier to do.

People who had taken part in studies using nasal irrigation to treat rhinosinusitis were interviewed in detail about their experiences with the therapy. The responses were overwhelmingly positive. Here are some of their comments:

“Nasal irrigation made a world of difference in my life.”

“I could actually feel…the pressure—kind of a dam held, and then it whooshed out the other side.”

“This is the magic cure for my sinuses.”

“My results were immediate. I went from being congested to breathing, and I would stay clear all day.”

“You don’t have to run to the doctor every few months to get on antibiotics.”

Some people reported that there was some initial discomfort when performing nasal irrigation—a burning or “drowning” feeling. These effects were not enough to make them stop doing it, though, as the results were well worth it, and “after you do it a few times, it’s nothing anymore.”

The people felt that having hands-on instruction demonstrating the technique was critical to their success. Some people found that doing nasal irrigation in the shower was easier than standing at the sink.

The authors of the study recommend using nasal irrigation one time per day at the onset of symptoms and continuing until symptoms improve. After that, nasal irrigation can be used as needed to help maintain healthy nasal and sinus passages.

(Ann Fam Med 2006;4:295–301)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.

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