My favorite reader questions are the ones that you think would have a simple answer and yet instead of just saying “yes” or “no” I take the opportunity to turn it into a story all about me and only tangentially address their question. Today’s question in part 4 of my Help a Reader Out (by giving them better advice that I do) series is from Angie who writes,
“Hey, have you ever tried a Neti pot? My doctor told me to try it for my recurring sinus infections but I’m weirded out by the whole idea of pouring water up my nose.”
First, pouring water up your nose is weird so kudos to you for a totally rational reaction. Second, I feel inclined to tell you that the research on Neti pots is quite mixed. Many holistic doctors swear by them for curing everything from allergies to infections but newer research shows that using them long term may actually backfire, giving you more sinus problems that you started out with. (Maybe our noses are like our stomachs and they need some bacteria living in them?) Either way however, that’s not what you asked me. You asked if I have ever tried one. And the answer to that is yes. Exactly once.
Charlotte’s Adventure With the Neti Pot (From 2010, shortly after my baby was born)
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.
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!
My advice Angie? Just never get sick. Everything’s easier that way.
Any of you use a Neti pot? Any advice for Angie about sinus infections? And is this pic not the grossest picture you’ve ever seen?!