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The sinus flush is a self-care practice that allows a person to gently rinse their nasal passages with a saline solution. This procedure may open up the nasal passages, clear out mucus, and remove contaminants and irritants.
The sinus flush is a procedure with many names and ancient roots. Also known as nasal irrigation, or neti pot treatment, the sinus flush has its origins in the Ayurvedic medical tradition.
This article looks at whether or not it works, how a person can perform the procedure safely, and the risks and benefits.
During a sinus flush, a person rinses their nasal passages with a saline solution.
A person can use a sinus flush to help with a number of different upper respiratory problems, including:
- chronic and acute sinusitis
- environmental irritants
People can use a number of different implements to conduct a sinus flush, including:
- a neti pot
- a nasal syringe
- an irrigation bottle
In order to be safe, the type of water a person chooses can be important.
For example, a person should only use distilled water, or water that is appropriately filtered and disinfected. This can help prevent disease-causing microorganisms, such as amoebas, from making their way into the brain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the preferred liquid to use is water that a person has boiled for at least 1 minute.
If boiled, distilled, or sterile water is not available, a person should filter the water. The filter label should read “cyst removal” or include “NSF 58” or “NSF 53.”
To make a saline solution at home, a person can mix 3 teaspoons of iodine-free salt to 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and baking soda mixture to 1 cup of water.
They can then follow these steps to perform a sinus flush:
- Lean over a washbasin and tilt the head to one side. To prevent liquid from going into the mouth, try to ensure that the chin and forehead are level.
- Breathing through the mouth, insert the spout into the upper nostril. The saline solution should drain through the lower nostril.
- Clear the nostril and repeat the process on the other side.
Whatever device a person decides to use, it is important to clean it thoroughly to disinfect it.
One 2017 study found that 25% of bottles and bulb syringes were infected with bacteria after 2 weeks, and 45% were infected after 4 weeks.
According to a 2019 clinical update, there is not yet definitive proof that nasal irrigation works for all respiratory problems. However, there is evidence to suggest that it can be helpful in many cases.
According to one 2015 review, regular nasal irrigation reduced symptoms in 35% of children and adults, and it improved quality of life in 30%.
Although there is broad support in the medical community for using nasal irrigation as a therapy, experts have not yet determined the best device to use or the most effective saline levels.
The main risk associated with the sinus flush is the possibility of infection. For example, not cleaning the utensils properly may lead to infection.
Also, using water that is not completely sterilized can introduce microorganisms into the nasal cavity and cause conditions such as amoebic meningitis, which tends to be fatal.
Symptoms of amoebic meningitis may include:
If the condition reaches the second stage, a person may experience:
Some people may experience mild discomfort due to:
- irritated nasal passages
- water that is either too hot or too cold
- ear pain
- saline solution pooling in the sinuses and draining later
The benefits of a sinus flush include:
- removing mucus
- cleaning dried mucus out of the nasal passages
- helping the cilia, which are hair-like cells that sweep impurities out of the nasal passages, work better
- clearing airborne irritants
- diminishing swelling
- reducing inflammation
- keeping the nasal passages moist
Nasal irrigation may help speed up the recovery process and reduce the severity of symptoms from sinus infections.
However, in some cases, other health issues may be at play, and it may be necessary to seek medical help.
If a person experiences any symptoms of amoebic meningitis, they need emergency medical attention.
A person should see a doctor if they experience:
- serious headaches
- worsening symptoms
The sinus flush, or nasal irrigation, is an ancient healing practice that is gaining contemporary popularity and a certain amount of supporting evidence from the medical community.
The consensus seems to be that the sinus flush can help reduce symptoms of the common cold, chronic sinusitis, and allergies.
However, there may be a chance of serious infection. A person needs medical help if they experience any unusual symptoms.