Too Many Nasal Washes Cause Sinus Infections?

If you swear by nasal washes during flu season like I do, listen up:

New research indicates that even as many people use neti pots and other saline delivery systems to help prevent and treat sinus infections, nasal irrigation over the long term may actually up the number of infections you get.

The theory behind this? Constant saline can wash out the good bacteria in your nose right along with the bacteria that causes the infection, meaning your nasal immunity suffers. The lead author of this research, Dr. Talal Nsouli, therefore recommends using nasal washes during infection only and not for regular maintenance.

Not everyone agrees with him, though, so check out the link to read some opposing views. If you want my take on the subject: I use nasal irrigation religiously when I’m sick, like with my recent H1N1 flu, but not at any other time. Of course, I only have sinus cavities that hate me and not allergies, so I’ve never felt I had to use it daily.

9 responses to “Too Many Nasal Washes Cause Sinus Infections?”

  1. ML says:

    After I had sinus surgery, my doctor strongly recommended that I irrigate on a daily basis.

    My problem isn’t bacteria, but nasal polyps. They’re (non-cancerous) growths that occur inside the sinus cavities. The medical community still hasn’t figured out exactly what triggers them, but about half of patients with polyps also have allergies. Keeping the sinuses clean seems to limit their growth as well.

    The idea behind irrigation (in my case, at least) is that it removing irritants (bacteria, allergens, etc.) from the sinuses will prevent polyps from growing. If you already have polyps, it won’t shrink them, but it may prevent them from growing further or at least slowing their growth.

    Considering I had my surgery at Johns Hopkins, I think irrigation is still widely supported by the otolaryngology community. However, I think the scope of the study needs to be extended beyond simply the effects on bacteria.

  2. Steve says:

    Hi Amy, Though you might find this article interesting.

    I’m actually going to be working with Dr Wenzel later this week at the University of Pittsburgh PA, as a study subject in a different research project. The H1N1 research office is located in the same building as the SARP (severe asthma research program) .

  3. Steve says:

    meant to say “thought” you might find this article interesting.

  4. Amy says:

    ML–Good point re: research on this & polyps. My problem is all bacterial, so I hadn’t considered that angle at all.

    Steve–Thanks! Emailing you about this.

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