DIY Saline Nasal Washes

Yesterday, I wrote

there’s nothing sexy about respiratory symptoms, breath tests, and body fluids.

Today, I say let’s explore that idea further and talk about saltwater in your nose. Nasal irrigation is all the rage lately. Didn’t you know?

Just this week I’ve participated in an email back-and-forth about saline washes with a regular reader, the New York Times published this article about neti pots on January 3, and apparently Oprah had a show on the little pots last spring, too.

Here’s the skinny on the saline:

Nasal irrigation involves pouring or squirting a saline solution into one nostril and letting it run out the other one

While the process sounds disgusting, it’s a pretty effective and non-medicinal way to clean out excess mucus during colds, allergy attacks, asthma flares, and acute sinusitis.

Nasal washes also keep the inside of your nose moist to prevent dry sinus pain during colds.

The neti pot, featured on both Oprah and in the article above, is a small vessel that holds and pours the solution. It’s originally from India.

Repeat readers know I shy away from offering unsolicited advice, but today I’m making an exception because–and I mean this in the most sincere way–nasal irrigation is like a freaking miracle. I may not have asthma, but when I developed chronic sinusitis 3 or 4 years ago, it helped clear my problem with repeat infections when I was facing sinus surgery as a last resort. Even now, I use saline washes to prevent infection at even the tiniest sign of congestion or that telltale facial pain around my left eye that signals the onset of massive sinus pain and misery.

I’m including some medical links at the end of this post rather than just write about my own experience, but trust me. Nasal washes really work for me. If you decide to try them, too, you’ll probably see what I mean.

Literally. You’ll see in the sink exactly what the saline cleaned out of your nose, and I don’t think I need to go into any more detail here.

In true advocate form, once nasal irrigation helped me I started getting AG to do them, too.

I prefer to mix my own solution and use the squirt/syringe method rather than this neti pot procedure. Bulb syringes force the saline into your nose more powerfully than the gentle stream of the neti pot, but I feel like it works better. Then again, chronic sinusitis and the prospect of those horrible headaches means I’ll do whatever takes to dislodge the stubborn mucus before it infects, but you don’t have to. For overall health and prevention or for kids, the more gentle neti method appears to work just fine.

Here’s how to mix and use your own nasal washes without a neti pot, per my ENT.

First, buy a quart-size plastic container with a watertight lid that pours. Like this:


Then buy some sort of syringe or bulb dropper for the liquid, like this:


Check your drugstore for these. This one is actually a nasal aspirator for babies, and I like it because it comes apart easily for washing.

Next, add the following:

–1 quart of water
–2 teaspoons of uniodized salt (iodized can irritate your nose)
–1 teaspoon of baking soda

Close the lid, and shake everything up. To use, pour a little saline mixture into a bowl, suck it up into the syringe/aspirator/whatever, and then squirt it into one of your nostrils while leaning forward over the sink. Anything you squirt into one nostril will of course pour right out of the other one, and it can get messy. You’ll have to blow your nose a few times afterward, too.

Want to learn more? Read these:

How Nasal Irrigation Can Help Allergies and Asthma

Mayo Clinic Video

Nasal Washes for Children

New Research Suggests Long-Term Nasal Washes May Hurt More Than Help