(This article appeared in Triathlete Magazine 2011)
Those of us who suffer from allergies, cold symptoms, sinus infections suffer due to the increased congestion of mucus in the nasal passages. Sinus rinsing can be an effective home remedy to reduce the length of time you have symptoms. The yogis in India have been using neti pots to sinus rinse for centuries so this treatment has a long history of effectiveness. Sinus rinsing is cheap, non-addictive and natural treatment for cold and allergy symptoms.
When the sinuses are irritated or infected, a significant amount of mucus will accumulate in the nasal passages. Since antibiotics are not effective in most viral illnesses, the only support you can offer your immune system during infection is to help clear mucus that collects in your nasal passages. By using a saline solution to gently flush the nasal passages you can remove mucus blockage in your upper respiratory tract. When mucus is cleared, your sinuses can flush properly and thus eliminate the infection that can become lodged in the cavities more quickly. Those with allergies benefit from sinus irrigation by eliminating trapped allergens like pollen, dust or pet dander from the upper respiratory tract which cause the immune response.
There are a number of commercially available sinus rinse options including saline liquids in nasal spray bottles or atomizers as well as premixed powdered saline sachets which you mix with water at home in a neti pot or in a plastic bottle with a screw cap for nasal application.
You can make your own saline sinus rinse with common household ingredients:
- 1 teaspoon (5mL) of non-iodized salt (kosher salt)
- 1/4 teaspoon (1mL) baking soda
- 1 cup (250mL) of filtered warm water
Shake the ingredients until they dissolve in a sterile sinus rinse bottle or neti pot. I find that using the sinus rinse is most sanitary in the shower since all the mess is washed away when you are finished. Squirt the saline solution in one nostril at a time. If you have done it correctly the solution will come out of your other nostril or your mouth. You do not want to swallow the solution. Blow your nose gently to remove any excess solution but not too hard, you don’t want to drain solution into your ears. You can expect your sinuses to drain for up to an hour after rinsing which is annoying in the evening when you are trying to sleep so keep that in mind when you are timing your sinus rinse. It can take a bit of practice to get the angle of your head right so give it a few tries before deciding how effective this remedy is for you.
Consulting with a doctor to see whether sinus rinsing is right for your symptoms is always a good idea. If you have severely blocked sinuses it is not a good idea to try rinsing. Also, waiting an hour after rinsing to apply any other nasal spray would avoid loss of the medication while the saline solution is draining.
I have found that saline solutions have lessened the severity of the respiratory infections I have had over the last few years and prevented the inevitable chest infection I would contract as the infection spread. Hopefully this home remedy can be of use for you.