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What is Nasal Washing?

By A. B. Kelsey
Updated Feb 18, 2024
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Nasal washing, also called nasal irrigation, occurs when the nasal cavity is rinsed with a saline water solution to moisturize the mucus membranes and flush out irritants and excess mucus. A popular personal hygiene practice in India, the disciples of yoga have used nasal washing methods for centuries. This practice has recently caught on in Western cultures where an increasing number of people are becoming interested in homeopathic health treatments.

Nasal irrigation is usually used to treat sinus and nasal conditions such as the common cold, hay fever, nasal congestion, and inflammation of the nose and sinuses. Others have reported that this cleansing practice can help flu sufferers feel better.

Nasal washing has many benefits, including reduced allergy symptoms, improved sinuses, and even the need for less allergy medication. Nasal washes help clean mucus from the sinus passages and remove irritants such as dust, smoke residue, or pollen from the nose. Nasal irrigation also removes bacteria and viruses from the nose and can decrease the swelling in the nose to allow increased air flow.

There are several nasal washing techniques. The simplest method is probably the hand technique, where one pours saltwater into the palm and sniffs the liquid up the nose one nostril at a time. This technique is not considered to be as effective as others, but it can be easily done in a pinch. A more common nasal washing method calls for a squeeze bottle. The bottle is filled with saltwater, placed against the nostril, and squeezed. The saltwater should go up the nostril and come out the opposite nostril or the mouth.

Some people choose to use a water pik with a sinus irrigator tip. The water pik is filled with saltwater and set to the lowest pressure. The tip is inserted just inside the nostril and the fluid is allowed to come out of the other nostril or the mouth.

Neti pots are another way one can do a nasal washing. A neti pot is a ceramic pot that looks a lot like a small, Aladdin’s lamp. Neti pots generally deliver water with less force than the squeeze bottle and water pik techniques. The pot is filled with warm salt water, then the tip of the spot is gently inserted into a nostril. The pot is tipped and the waters flow through one nostril and out the other.

Still others prefer to wash their nasal cavity with a pulsating irrigator. This device looks similar to a water pick and delivers a controlled flow of water. Some medical reports state that the consistent water pressure irrigates the sinuses more effectively than other methods.

Nasal washing is not really painful, but it can be a bit uncomfortable. No matter what technique is used, the point of the treatment is to cleanse, not blast, the sinuses. The water pressure should never be any stronger than the flow of a water fountain. The water solution needs to be lukewarm to make it the most comfortable. Plain cold water might irritate the sensitive mucus membranes in the nose. Nasal washing might sound gross, but those who use this personal hygiene practice rave about its effectiveness.

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Discussion Comments
By Genevieve410 — On Jun 22, 2011

Recently, I used a new nasal irrigator, Preven-Co (made in Taiwan). It efficiently cleansed my nose without me worrying about choking on the water. During the cleansing process, I feel comfortable and I can breathe normally. Try it; you will find it different from others.

By anon121398 — On Oct 24, 2010

I prefer to use the pulsating irrigators. they work much better without the mess of neti pots. The best one on the market I think is the SinuPulse which I got online, but is widely available.

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