I don't think you're ready for this neti
February 20, 2010 12:44 PM   Subscribe

How much is too much, with regards to neti potting?

I have a nasty head cold. Using a neti pot helps with my sinus congestion-- but only for about an hour or so. Then the sinus pressure and sniffles come back. I'm pretty new to the practice and all the instructions I can find online are vague with regards to timing (ranging from once a week to once a day). I've already irrigated twice today; if I repeat every couple of hours or so, am I damaging my sinuses or somehow sabotaging my recovery?

I'm using a simple home-made saline solution (about a cup of warm water with half a teaspoon of kosher salt dissolved in).
posted by oinopaponton to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I was told 2-3 times per day is ok for severe allergies/sinusitis/etc., but if you're feeling any irritation, cut down on the amount of salt you use.
posted by inmediasres at 12:53 PM on February 20, 2010

Best answer: PRN. IANAD.
posted by torquemaniac at 12:55 PM on February 20, 2010

but if you're feeling any irritation, cut down on the amount of salt you use.

Actually, if you use too LITTLE salt, it hurts more. The saline balance is important. (Too much will sting, obviously.)
posted by availablelight at 1:00 PM on February 20, 2010

Just had a conversation about this...friend of mine previously very prone to sinus infections in the past now uses her neti pot religiously, daily, 3x each side, and hasn't had any sinus trouble since. So, daily as a cleansing even when healthy appears to have real benefits.
posted by sparrowdance at 1:07 PM on February 20, 2010

Response by poster: Awesome. I haven't had any irritation or pain, just wanted to make sure before I liquified my brain or something.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:10 PM on February 20, 2010

Best answer: After my sinus surgery, my ENT told me to irrigate my nose (using a different method than the neti pot) every hour, if I wanted to, for comfort, during the healing process. There's no such thing as irrigating too frequently, he said. Later, he credited my excellent recovery and small amount of scar tissue to my having done so. His recipe was 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized salt plus 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of warm water.

Note that not all brands of salt are alike, when you're measuring by volume. If you get a different brand of kosher salt, and measure by the spoonful, your solution may have too much or too little salt in it, which will make a huge difference in comfort. Also, not all kitchen measuring spoons will hold the labeled amount. One teaspoon of non-iodized table salt equals one and a quarter teaspoons of Morton's Coarse Kosher salt, or two teaspoons of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. All of these different amounts weigh the same. Your goal is to have 0.9% sodium chloride by weight, which is the concentration of normal saline, the same as the concentration of salt in your bloodstream.
posted by Ery at 1:12 PM on February 20, 2010 [11 favorites]

Adding a bit of baking soda helps balance the pH, which can reduce irritation. I cut iodine-free salt with about 1/6 as much baking soda. YMMV depending on your water supply.
posted by dws at 1:14 PM on February 20, 2010

It's almost impossible to irrigate too much, but as others have said, a little too much salt is better than too little. I use a mixture at about twice the concentration of normal saline - it helps to draw moisture out of the mucous membranes and reduce congestion. Too little salt will actually cause congestion, since the solution will cause mucous membranes to swell.

Also, sea salt or pickling salt are better than kosher. Kosher salt usually has an anti-caking agent added and that can be an irritant.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 2:06 PM on February 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've never done it more than twice in a day, but I don't see how a third or fourth time could hurt. I did recently come across an article mentioning the *quantity* of water one uses. My neti pot is a pretty basic ceramic job, probably in the 4oz range. One source I read suggested using a neti pot that holds 15oz of water, that using less water does not result in as good of a rinse/irrigation. I used that as a guide, and filled my pot three times for each nostril during one session, and it did wonders to flush out the nastiness that was causing a severe sinus headache.

I also switched to an 'infused salt rinse' picked up from my local cooperative grocery for the duration of the head cold, and was pleased with the results.
posted by kuppajava at 2:59 PM on February 20, 2010

In my experience, go ahead and irrigate as much as you want to get over that cold, just make sure to use enough salt (and buffer it if you want with baking soda for comfort.)

My allergists have told me that 3-4 times per day is absolutely fine for my ongoing issues with sinusitis. I saw the study to which kmennie linked, which also was examining long-term use. YMMW, but a study involving just 68 people isn't going to cause me to question my doctor's advice.
posted by desuetude at 3:42 PM on February 20, 2010

Piggybacking on this question: is there any risk from sodium absorption? I don't want to die of heart disease and have them blame my obsessive neti potting at my funeral.
posted by BaxterG4 at 5:12 PM on February 20, 2010

BaxterG4, I was curious about that too, but from what I found it doesn't look like it. Two links here and here.
posted by flod logic at 6:17 PM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

One more tip as to getting the proper solution: I measure to taste. The water should be about as salty as tears. This helps when you have different kinds of salt or nothing to measure with.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:49 AM on February 21, 2010

As I (sl-o-w-l-y) recovered from the flu, my favorite PA said I could just snort up a handful of water in the shower if I didn't want to get a neti pot. :7) And I did it for about a week, too, but then things eased up a little when I get the actual sinus iunfection diagnosed and some anitbiotics inhand.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:00 AM on February 22, 2010

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