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Maybe you’ve seen one in an ad, or you have a friend who’s tried using one. If you haven’t tried one yourself or seen one in action first-hand, the neti pot may seem like an absurd, strange home remedy. But don’t let your skepticism hold you back from what may be one of the best tools you can use to stop a runny nose. Learning how to use a neti pot may be just the trick you need to breathe easy and get rid of your cold symptoms.
What Is a Neti Pot?
A neti pot looks like a teapot with a long spout. You fill it with a saltwater solution that you pour into one nostril. As it runs through your nasal cavity and sinuses, it flushes out mucus and drains through the other nostril. This is called nasal irrigation.
Does the Neti Pot Really Work?
While it may seem like an odd practice, nasal irrigation has actually been shown to be an effective treatment for multiple conditions and is recommended highly by physicians. Some of the conditions that can be treated using a neti pot include allergies (allergic rhinitis), chronic rhinosinusitis (chronic runny nose and sinus inflammation), and sinus infections. Several research studies confirm the benefit of using a neti pot, and people who use nasal irrigation experience significant reductions in symptoms like runny nose and congestion.[1,3]
Why Does the Neti Pot Help?
Most researchers agree that many of the benefits of nasal irrigation come from the actual movement of fluid through the nasal cavity, which physically clears away mucus and debris. But the effectiveness of this strategy may be due to more than just that.
Nasal irrigation using a neti pot is done with a solution of salt and water. Researchers believe that the saline itself may actually play a role in making physiological changes, like lowering inflammation and enhancing the immune mechanisms in the sinuses and nasal cavity.[2,4] The type of salt used can even make a difference (see Step #1 below).
How to Use a Neti Pot
Learning how to use a neti pot for the first time can be daunting; pouring water through your nose is not exactly a comfortable thing to try. But once you get used to the unique, odd sensation (don’t worry, it isn’t painful), you’ll be glad that you tried. And with practice, it will become easier to do.
Your neti pot should come with detailed instructions that can help walk you through how to use it. The basic process is as follows:
1. Prepare your saline solution.
Mix two cups of sterile, lukewarm water (be sure to use distilled or previously boiled and cooled water) with one teaspoon of salt. Choose an all-natural sea salt. Try finding Dead Sea salt; studies show that Dead Sea salt seems to confer some added benefit over regular saline solutions, as it likely has particularly effective anti-inflammatory effects.[1,3]
2. Set up over the sink.
Fill your neti pot with your saltwater solution, and get ready in a place you can let the water drain, such as over the sink or bathtub.
3. Flush your nasal cavity.
Tilt your head over the sink so that one nostril is pointed a bit up (try putting your head at a 45-degree angle). Place the spout into your nostril, and pour half of the solution slowly into your nose. Keep your mouth open to breathe. The liquid should drain out the bottom nostril. Stand up straight, spit out any liquid that runs into your throat (it’s okay if this happens), and gently blow your nose to get rid of any excess fluid. Repeat with the other nostril using the other half of the solution.
4. Repeat daily.
When symptoms are really bad, you can try using your neti pot in the morning and in the evening (preferably at least an hour before bed to reduce the chance of bothersome drainage while trying to fall sleep). Once symptoms subside, try using it a few times a week.
5. Keep your neti pot clean and dry.
After each use, clean thoroughly and let dry completely.
Don’t be afraid of using this extremely effective and low-cost home remedy. Find a neti pot today to start finding relief. Neti pots are available at most natural grocers, and they are also available online. Once you perfect your technique and get used to it, you’ll be able to control your symptoms and breathe easier thanks to this simple and natural technique.
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Originally published in 2015 and regularly updated.