The Neti Pot: Adventures in Nasal Drainage

by Charlotte on March 14, 2010 · 29 comments


Those of you who signed up to follow me on Twitter are probably really sorry right about now. And no, I’m not talking about that article I posted today about the 600-lb woman in New Jersey who has made it her goal to weigh 1,000 pounds by eating 12,000 calories a day. (The really disturbing part is that she is funding her 750$/week food habit by running a website where men pay to watch her eat fast food. I can only assume she’s doing it nude because everyone I know would rather pay money to not have to watch a stranger eat.) No, I’m talking about my live-blogged adventures with the Neti pot.

Like most things that end up with bodily fluids all over my floors, I blame this on my kids. Jelly Bean, specifically. While everyone knows that there are many things you can’t ingest while you’re pregnant, nobody bothers to tell you that not only do those restrictions continue after your little hitchhiker has caught the last umbilical train out of your uterus but they actually increase if you decide to let them continue on to Hooterville.

I’m not trying to knock breastfeeding – I’m happy that I’m making my kids smarter, healthier, and better at bra-fitting (you’d think, right?) – but it sucks (ha!) when it comes to what you can’t eat. Not only has Jelly Bean weaned me off of all foods containing dairy but when I got all congested this last weekend I couldn’t even take any medicine (antihistamines can apparently dry up the boob juice). So in desperation I turned to a non-medicinal remedy: the Neti pot. (Why am I capitalizing Neti? I have no idea. Jelly Bean has RSV and I’m so sleep deprived that random capitalization should be the least of your worries. Someone really needs to take away my car keys, is what I’m saying.)

For those of you uninitiated in the ways of sinus flushing, a Neti pot is a little teapot that you fill with salt water and then tilting your head to the side, you pour the water up your nose until it comes out the other nostril. Yes it does feel like you are drowning in the Dead Sea – but only briefly. That is if things go according to plan which with me they never do.

Deceptively adorable, no??

My first attempt had me choking and gagging as the saline ran down my throat. I thought that this must be because my head was too high so I tilted it down further over the sink for the second go-round. IT CAME OUT MY EYE. I inhaled salt water through my nose and squirted it out of my eye socket people. I know this sounds like the best party trick ever but I cannot tell you how disturbed by this I was. And not just because I wear contacts that were now burning from the inside.

It turns out that if your nasal passages are completely blocked, as mine apparently were, the water will do as water does and follow the path of least resistance out. MY EYE. So I did what I do naturally – which was run around shrieking. After a brief Facebook consultation with Gym Buddy Jeni who is so cool that she not only snorts salt water but adds zinc and colloidal silver to her Neti (blinged out sinuses! Take that Lil’ Wayne with your wimpy grill!) I blew my nose and tried again. This time it worked. If by worked you mean that I became the world’s grossest water fountain.

When I finished my masochistic ritual, I expected that all the snot would be cleaned out and I would be able to breathe unmolested. Wrong again. The human body produces way more boogers than you’d think. Instead of being the After woman on an Allegra commercial, I was now a walking slug leaving a trail of slime as I moped around my house. (Gym Buddy Dennis was so grossed out when I posted that lovely visual that he couldn’t eat lunch!) And to top it all off, my sinuses actually felt more inflamed than when I started.

It was at this point I decided to stop using my Internet powers to gross out random strangers and put them to their official use: Googling medical symptoms until I become hysterical. I looked up the Neti pot hoping to find other similar slug stories but instead found WebMD’s entirely non-hysterical article “Do Neti Pots Work?” The short answer is yes. Not only have they been around for centuries but research backs up people’s claims that it help alleviate with sinus pain, headaches, colds and allergies. Increased congestion can be a temporary side effect although WebMD assured me that it would go away with repeated use. So I did it again the next day (which was yesterday for those of you keeping count) and today I can breathe freely – through exactly one nostril. Partial victory!

Any of you use a Neti pot? Any tricks to help me out? And most importantly, would you pay money to watch a random stranger on the Internet eat? (If enough of you answer yes to that last one I may have just found my new site format!)

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) March 16, 2010 at 5:04 am

As per usual with your posts I laughed until smoothie came out my eyeball.

My Mom saw the Neti b/c Dr. Oz approved. I told my Dad. He started using it and liked it. Then about a month or two ago, he sent me an email with the title "No No Neti" and it was someone saying that it isn't good. Truth be known, I've been so behind and slammed I just skimmed it. It was a study done by one guy at some nasal institute I forwarded it to you. Let me know if it has any merit and good luck!

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Jenn March 16, 2010 at 11:46 am

I don't use the Neti pot on an everday basis, just when I'm seriously congested and trying to stay off the OTC drugs. On the pack of the saline packets that I bought from CVS, it says you can repeat the nasal wash every 2 hours. Subsequent rinses have seemed far more helpful than the original. It's completely disgusting but so worth it to get all that gunk out that I'd never get out with blowing and kleenex alone!

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Charlotte March 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Thanks for the article Deb! I'm updating my post with the info!

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Charlotte March 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Thanks for the tip Jenn! It was oddly fascinating seeing all the stuff that came out!

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VaMomof2 March 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I do not neti but my dear husband swears by it. He is either fighting my cold or allergies at the moment and I find him periodically in the kitchen with that thing up his nose. He does it a few times a day and says it is better than any medicine. I just cannot imagine pouring water into my sinuses – I am sticking with Mucinex.

I also read the article about the woman who wants to weigh 1000 pounds – the one I read talked about how much she will end up costing us, the taxpayer, because of the medical problems she will develop. I believe she eats in a bikini to show off her fat – that is what people are paying for – just too odd for words -

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Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman March 16, 2010 at 2:02 pm

I’ve used Nasopure in the past with great success (it’s upright so it’s a bit easier). You can get it here: http://www.nasopure.com/. It definitely helped clear stuff out, and made my nose less likely to be red and raw and dry.

But now that I have chronic eustacian tube dysfunction (the part of your ear that pops open and shut) rinsing generally gives me an earache. Boo, because 100 percent of the time my left nostril is clogged completely.

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Geosomin March 16, 2010 at 2:22 pm

A coworker with bad allergies uses one every day…it cuts way down on the allergy meds she has to take. I haven't dared it yet (I'm so clumsy I' sure I'd drown) but I've been told by a number of people they do work once you get hte hang of them…

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Karen March 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm

I don't have a Neti pot. I'm generally SO bad at self-administering these kinds of things that I would likely drown myself with it. Regarding paying to watch an internet stranger eat — No. I wouldn't do it. But I think that, as with a foot fetish or sado-masochism, if you don't actually have that fetish, you can't understand its appeal.

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that dutch girl March 16, 2010 at 2:46 pm

The neti pot saves my life. I get bad sinus infections every winter… or used to get, I should say. Whenever my nose starts to feel a bit congested, I start using the neti pot daily, and it usually keeps the bad infections at bay. Of course I do still get colds, and then I rinse multiple times a day. Yes, the first time is always messy, but the consecutive times are always better.

Interestingly enough, I came to use the neti pot through my yoga practice. But when I was little, my grandfather, who was an Ear Nose and Throat specialist, used to have me snort salt water from his huge grandfatherly hands whenever I was congested. I had recurring ear infections and he told me if I did that regularly, they wouldn't come so often. So my neti rinsing reminds me of my grandfather on a regular basis. Nice side effect.

As for that woman, I think that's just sick. I mean, literally. Would anyone pay money to see someone chain-smoke themselves to death? It's like watching a snuff movie. It makes me very sad.

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Laurie March 16, 2010 at 3:03 pm

I've been using the Neti pot for a few years and it totally changed my life. I was able to get off ALL of my allergy meds, waved goodbye to chronic sinus infections and no longer suffer from the post-nasal drip that would choke me several nights a week.

I had a rough few days, as you did, when I first started but I quickly discovered the key to Neti bliss – use it in the shower! Using it in the shower works wonderfully for me as the shower water is already the perfect temperature (water that is too hot or too cold will be uncomfortable) and I just keep the little packets of saline refills on the shelf inside my shower. It eliminated the gross-out factor (hubby can't stand to see me do it over the sink!) too, since you're already in the shower. The gross stuff goes right down the drain. Also makes it easy not to forget – I usually shower 2x/day (in the morning and at night after I workout) so it's as much as part of my shower routine as washing my hair.

Try it in the shower – I guarantee you'll like it :)

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marathonmaiden March 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm

i know people who swear by it! )there's also a similar thing for congested ears!) but i've always been skeptical. it's not that i don't think it works but rather that i don't want water irrigating my nose haha!

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Mineral March 16, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I love my neti pot! My husband is always strangely fascinated and grossed out every time I use it.

It does take practice, but it really has cut down on the number of sinus infections I get. If I'm feeling stuffy or have a rotten sinus headache (which to be honest, most OTC drugs can't really help me with), I will use it 2-3 times per day. Too many more then that and the salt water can really dry out the inside of your nose.

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WhimsAndInconsistencies March 16, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I'm a Neti pot believer! It took me awhile to get the right head-tilt position, but we work well together now! If you breathe through your mouth while you pour it helps it from going down your throat a bit.

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Chelsea March 16, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Never realized there was a product for it, but I do this in the shower when I'm really contested. Just lean your head way back so the water runs up your nose. It works great for me.

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Shelly March 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I love my neti pot. I only use it when I'm congested due to allergies or a cold, but it really is a lifesaver. So TMI alert, but in the winter, the insides of my nose inevitably get really gross and bloody (b/c it's dry and I'm blowing the darn thing all the time) and the neti pot really prevents the whole bloody nose thing for me as well as clears me out. :)
My pro tip is to use it in the shower! You wait until the steam has cleared your head out a bit and then it works really well.

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Jenn (GH) March 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I tried one once and wasn't a fan. It annoyed me more than the sinus infection. I even had the audacity to take it back…I hope they don't resell it. Now that's a pleasant thought.

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j.p. March 16, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I love my husband's Neti pot! I suggested he try it to help out with allergies & sinus infections and it had a wonderful side effect: He quit his roaring snore! Ah, delicious full nights of sleep. He was SO loud and constant, throat snoring and nasal snoring both — and both have been fixed (and he breathes so well in sleep). When he starts snoring again, I ask him to please sacrifice his sinus to the ways of Neti. Neti, I love you.

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Melleah March 16, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Bless your heart– the water came out of your eye! Yuck!

It takes practice and persistence to get used to using a Neti pot, but now I use mine twice a day. It really helps with my allergies.

One tip to keep the water from running down your throat is to bend (from the hips) over the sink, and make sure the crown of your head is even with or slightly lower that your hips. And remember to breath through your mouth.

Practice practice practice and you'll be a Neti pot pro!

And NO WAY would I pay to watch people eat! Especially someone who is already overweight and doesn't need to eat unhealthy fast food.

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Anonymous March 17, 2010 at 2:15 am

NeilMed's Sinus Rinse. same concept less mess and easier to get the water up the nose. It's the only thing that helps me survive allergy season. I have been using it for years but never got the hang of a true neti pot.

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Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) March 17, 2010 at 2:26 am

Charlotte,
NeilMed's Sinus Flush saved me last week. Not sure how it differs from the Neti pot – looks like the same concept. I cannot stand getting stuffy, but I hate nasal sprays, etc. Huge fan of the flush. :)

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Elena March 17, 2010 at 4:09 am

Hi Charlotte,

My husband got a Neti Pot this year and uses it every once in awhile. He thinks it really helps him when he starting to feel a cold coming on. We also got one for my 4 year old and she tried a couple times, but isn't too thrilled about trying it again.
I have not tried it yet. Mine is sitting in a box waiting for me to need it. I'm kinda scared too…LOL.
My husband looked at a lot of YouTube videos to see "how to do it" before he tried using it.
Maybe some of those videos would help you too. He says it's all about "the angle in which you tilt your head". Good luck!

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Katie J March 17, 2010 at 4:18 am

oh, i love the neti pot! it saved me from my last sinus infection.

And–I do not like taking a lot of medicine. Even reading your post about not being able to take meds when pregnant or nursing just reinforces the side effects of drugs. Sure, I'll take something if I am unable to work (and absolutely can not take time to rest) or if I just can't get good rest in when I'm sick…..but that neti pot is a great trick.
When I was super congested 3 weeks ago, I would "neti" (yes, it is now a verb at home and my work place) about 3x a day.
Anyway, I think the Neti is great. It's interesting that many people get worried about using natural remedies but not about taking over the counter meds these days. What a great job drug companies are doing in advertising.

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katieo March 17, 2010 at 5:08 am

ok, I'm also a fan of the NeilMed Sinus Rinse. I think it's possible to shoot the water up with a little more pressure. PLUS the little saline packets are handy. It has worked wonderfully for me. (and subsequent rinses have always been easier…this is probably too late but there you go)

also. That picture at the top of your post just made me throw up.

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Kara March 17, 2010 at 10:40 am

How timely-I'm awake this early because one of my 6yo's woke me up and asked to use the 'bugger volcano.' That, in our house, is the squeezable neti pot. I'm addicted to it and so are my kids! Zinc? Silver? I'm all over it! Gotta try me sommathat.

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love2eatinpa March 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm

ugh, sorry you have been feeling crappy! sinuses are the worst.
i'm a huge fan of, not the neti pot, but something called neilmed sinus rinse. i SWEAR by it. my husband is hooked and i've hooked many friends who also swear by it. is it the most fun feeling to have the water going up one side of your nose and coming out the other? no. however, it doesn't hurt and after you use it a few times, it's really no big deal especially when the results you get are so awesome. note: you practically have to hang your head upside down in the sink so that it doesn't go down your throat. using this has kept many a sinus infection at bay. hang in there with it!
oh, my sinus rinse can be used twice a day, you may want to see if you can use the neti pot twice a day to really help flush the gunk out.
as for paying to watch that pathetic woman eat – no way!

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Bobbie's Babbles March 18, 2010 at 1:29 am

No, to using a neti pot and definitely no to watching a 600 pound dressed or naked woman eating fast food. I don't want to watch me [naked for sure] eating fast food. Good post and hope you are feeling better!

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Amy March 19, 2010 at 12:57 am

charlotte, you slay me! i don't know which has me more laughing yet horrified; the photos on the blog or the mental pictures you paint in my mind!

sorry the bean is so picky. my baby doesn't care what is in my system as long as the result is his nummy milk. Though i'm battling a cold myself and just trying to tough it out. what about saline nose drops instead of the netti-pot deluge?

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Jen September 7, 2010 at 10:10 am

Sorry for the late post.. and for whatever it's worth.
There are several mistakes that newbie's can make while starting out on neti. Before starting out, I suggest reading some good question / answers like the one here:
http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/neti/jalaneti_faq.asp
Also, in my personal experience it's always better to start out when you DON'T have a cold. It is always easier to get the hang of it.

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Cindy P May 22, 2011 at 1:29 am

I have been using a neti pot for a while now. It has been great for my allergies & colds. I had water come out of my eye for the first time today due to cold congestion. It freaked me out, but now I am feeling better. I have always used distilled water in my neti solution. I have heard that is safer than tap water.

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