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Have you heard of the saline rinse? It involves a device that looks a little like a tiny tea pot inserted into your nostril to gently flush or rinse out your sinus cavities of debris, pollen, bacteria and ... well ... snot.
Many people, from Oprah to Ellen, have touted its benefits. In fact, there is an entire YouTube section dedicated to showing viewers a step-by-step guide if you search for it. Many pharmacies are carrying various forms of nasal rinses from the classic ‘Neti Pot’ to the ‘Rhino Horn,’ and many people are reporting huge success in their chronic allergy or sinus symptoms.
But does it work?
Anecdotally, most all people who try it report symptom relief, especially if done in the acute illness. In the October 2011 Journal for Nurse Practitioners, researchers scanned the literature and reported with saline irrigation in the treatment of rhinosinusitis, “Until further research is conducted to refute this practice, the treatment mode provides a safe and economically astute alternative to the costly conventional treatments available ...” In layman’s terms, thumbs up on trying it.
In the 2009 American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting, researchers recommended nasal irrigation for short term use only such as a week to ten days, or for six to eight weeks after surgery. They report daily use for a full twelve months removes even healthy mucus in the sinus cavity and can create repeat infections.
Mucus acts as a trap for infection, pollen, and bacteria so it is important not to wash it away every day unless in the middle of allergy season or when starting a cold/sinus infection. They are careful to point out that at some point the saline irrigation may not work in an acute infection and you may need stronger therapy.
In 2003, researchers at the Scientific Assembly of the American Academy of Family Physicians reported daily use of a saline nasal rinse reduced a lot of the symptoms involved in sinusitis including the need for antibiotics.