Try Nasal Washing To Ease Cold And Allergy Symptoms

Posted Mon, 02/15/2010 - 11:46pm by Deeanna Franklin Campbell

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Next time you feel the first stir of a cold or allergies — rhinitis, sinusitis, allergic asthma — try nasal washing with a saline solution for symptom relief. Nasal washing helps reduce the amount of mucus that drains from your nose and sinus passages during bouts of rhinitis or sinusitis. It is a particularly good practice to do before bed as drainage irritation is often worse at night.

Nasal washing, also known as nasal irrigation, does not involve a drug, but a salt water solution that cleans mucus from the nose and sinus. It can make medication more effective, clean allergens and irritants from the nose, remove bacteria and viruses, and even reduce the swelling of nasal passages thereby boosting air flow.

As someone whose quarterly sinus infections are now ancient history due to regular nasal washings, it’s changed my life. For those who prefer hard science, in a 2008 prospective study published in the Archives of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, researchers randomly assigned 401 children (aged 6-10 years old) with uncomplicated cold or flu at eight pediatric clinics to either standard medication alone, or standard medication plus saline nasal washing for 12 weeks. Results showed that compared to the kids on standard medication alone, fewer children in the nasal washing group needed decongestants, fever reducers, or had stuffy noses, infections or complications. The children using saline nasal washes also had significantly fewer illness days, and school absences. Overall, their nasal symptoms were resolved more quickly, and future rhinitis symptoms were far less frequent.

The steps involved in nasal washing are fairly simple. Most large drug stores sell ready-made nasal irrigation sprays, as well as nasal wash pots (also known as a neti pots — they look like slightly exaggerated teapots). With ready-made irrigation sprays look for one that shoots a firm, steady stream of solution, as opposed to a light mist. You can also prepare your own solution by combining a half-teaspoon of salt, 4 to 8 ounces of water, and a pinch of baking soda. Fill the neti pot with the saline solution, tilt your head to the side and put the spot just inside one nostril, allow the water to flow into your nostril. Water will run out of your other nostril and some may even get into your mouth. Repeat with the other nostril, and afterward gently blow your nose. It’s a funny feeling at first — like giving yourself a stuffy nose, but this quickly passes as the water runs through.

Nasal washing is a bit messy, so be sure to lean over a sink, or consider using the preparation in the shower. If you don’t have a neti pot, you can use a Water Pik with a sinus irrigation tip. For children and infants try a syringe (without the needle, of course), or eye dropper. Then use a bulb syringe to suction out the mucus. Be warned: do not expect the very young to cooperate quietly with your nasal washing plans. You may need to call in back-up.

After each use, rinse the nasal wash pot or irrigation tips in hot water and allow to dry thoroughly.

Allergy season will soon be upon us, consider adding nasal washing to your preventative care arsenal.

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