How do I neti pot/sinus rinse safely?
August 30, 2017 8:38 AM   Subscribe

For the past 6 months, I've used a Neilmed sinus rinse everyday (once in the morning and once at night). I've found that this greatly reduces the frequency of headaches and also helps me sleep better at night. Help me not die from it.

I boil tap water in a kettle and then use that water, re-heated in a glass when the water cools down, and then poured into the Neilmed bottle. I typically take the kettle off once it starts whistling, which means the water only boils for a short amount of time. I've seen it written that it should be boiled for several minutes...I also use the water I've boiled for the next day and a half of rinses.

I have a few questions:

1. Am I currently doing anything that could be bad for me? Should I be letting the kettle whistle for several minutes before turning off the heat?

2. My plan for when I travel was to boil the water in a handheld this unsafe? If I use bottled water is it better than vs. tap water? If not, does anyone have advice for how to safely use a sinus rinse while travelling?

3. How high (or low) are the chances I'd end up with brain-eating amoeba as a result of not being incredibly cautious?
posted by rbf1138 to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Data point: I've used a neti pot for 10+ years using warm water straight from the tap and never had a single issue.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:45 AM on August 30, 2017 [10 favorites]

If your tap water is safe to drink I don't see how it isn't safe to shoot into your nasal passages.
posted by COD at 9:00 AM on August 30, 2017

COD: There are microbes that are safe to drink but deadly in nasal passages. For instance: Naegleri fowleri, the "brain-eating amoeba".
posted by cnidaria at 9:03 AM on August 30, 2017 [18 favorites]

3. How high (or low) are the chances I'd end up with brain-eating amoeba as a result of not being incredibly cautious?

According to the CDC, there have only been 143 cases of primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) in the U.S. since 1962. That includes every case, not just the ones caused by nasal irrigation. The incidence of PAM caused by nasal irrigation is vanishingly low, estimated at 3 U.S. cases total (2 neti pot users and 1 man who performed nasal irrigation for religious reasons).

Using a neti pot, even imperfectly, is very low-risk. But taking the proper precautions is easy, so why not be thorough?
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:06 AM on August 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

1. Your current protocol sounds safe, and it's more careful than I bother with.

2. If you boil, you're fine. If bottled, what you want is distilled water. The good news is that's usually cheaper than regular bottled water, but the bad news is that it's usually only available in larger bottles at grocery stores, not in small bottles from vending machines.

3. Depends on where you live. I rinse with tap water in Colorado (and that is probably more risk than I should be taking), but never in Louisiana. Probably easiest way to gauge the risk is whether it gets properly cold in winter.
posted by asperity at 9:12 AM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

> If your tap water is safe to drink I don't see how it isn't safe to shoot into your nasal passages.

Please don't share blatant misinformation like this. The odds of OP getting primary amebic meningoencephalitis are extraordinarily low (see above), but that doesn't make it okay to give scientifically false information. One's digestive tract is able to kill certain dangerous critters, including some amoeba, that your sinuses and other organs can't.

When it comes to health, if you don't know, don't guess.

posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:12 AM on August 30, 2017 [45 favorites]

Oh, about the kettle. Just get an electric kettle so that you don't have to worry about listening for the whistle and taking it off the stove. Some of those even have special long-boil settings for just this sort of thing. It's faster and easier, and you can use it for everything you need hot water for.
posted by asperity at 9:14 AM on August 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

As a data point, I use bottled distilled water microwaved briefly. This way I can measure out the exact amount of water and use what I think is the least amount of electricity to heat it up. Not only is that the safest water I can use, but honestly our local water is chemically and often leaves a creepy residue when allowed to evaporate from containers so it's worth the dollar or so per gallon to just not be creeped out in general by my nose water.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:38 AM on August 30, 2017

I did this for awhile and started buying distilled water bc of the whole 'waiting to cool to not melt bottle or face' part of the boiling water. I would be nervous using it while re travelling unless I had travel sized distilled water, and would just use that at room temp.
(tbh I found that nasal sprays such as Flonase and a prescribed steroid one were much more effective and MUCH more easy to deal with).
posted by bquarters at 10:21 AM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

For traveling maybe consider an immersion heater -- cheap, small, and portable and you can let it boil for as long as you want. To use it safely you'll want a sturdy ceramic mug which some hotel rooms have and some don't.

At home I boil a single serving of water, put it in a clean mug, dissolve the powder in it, and then put it in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes, which gets it to pretty much the perfect temperature.
posted by duoshao at 10:39 AM on August 30, 2017

I've used a neti pot for years and started using the Neilmed several years ago when I saw how damn easy it is. I use distilled water which I store at room temperature. I bring the temp up slightly with boiled tap water that I have filtered using a Camelbak (similar to Brita). All good so far!
posted by janey47 at 10:40 AM on August 30, 2017

If you are using drinkable tap water, you are more likely to trip, fall and die from head trauma while reaching for your net pot than die from an amoeba.

If I was doing this twice a day, I'd buy distilled water just so there's not so much chlorine in my sinuses.

Everything has some sort of risk.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:55 AM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another voice for distilled water. We keep it in the house anyway for humidifiers and CPAP's and stuff. I had been using warm tap water for years for neti/Neilmed-related purposes until the news stories a few years ago about the amoeba. The non-zero chance of a brain-eating beastie eating my brain was enough for me to make the admittedly easy switch.
posted by bluejayway at 1:06 PM on August 30, 2017

Steripen is an option. Good for travel too.
posted by kjs4 at 9:23 PM on August 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Steripen it is! That's a pretty brilliant remedy for all the issues I noted. I can travel with it, use warm tap water anywhere and saves me the cost of distilled water over time.
posted by rbf1138 at 1:27 PM on August 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do you drink tea? When I make tea, I routinely boil too much water. Later, when I want to use the neti pot, there's cooled boiled water ready and waiting in the kettle.
posted by tangerine at 4:11 PM on September 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

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