Eight Dos And Don’ts For Using A Neti Pot

Constantly congested, blowing your nose or feel like there's an itch you can't scratch? Adding a neti pot to your daily routine may be just what the doctor ordered.
Neti pot, runny nose Masterfile

It’s winter, and that means several things: the dog’s going to be a more reluctant walker, I can finally stop worrying about unevenly pedicured toes, and my nose is going to start running every time I leave the house. I haven’t really given much thought to the first two, but the last one is a royal pain.

I’ve heard however, that if your nose does run—whether from seasonal allergies, a cold or flu, or some other reason—using a neti pot might help.

A neti pot a device used for nasal irrigation, and it looks like a little genie’s lamp. (Cute for something you stick in your nostril.) Its origins lie in Ayurveda, or ancient Indian medicine. So here’s the idea: you put a saline solution in the pot, and then you stick the pot in one nostril and tip both your head and the pot forward, forcing the solution into your nasal cavity. The job of the neti pot is to rinse your mucous membranes, not just clearing congestion but also helping to clear any congestion-causing irritants.

The safety of neti pots was called into question with two deaths linked to brain infections that were caused by questionably filtered tap water in rural Louisiana. So I spoke with naturopathic doctor Leslie Solomonian about the dos and don’ts of using a neti pot. Here's what she had to say:

DO consider the root causes of your congestion. It’s one thing if it's just a temporary cold, and another if your nose is always running. According to Solomonian, the most common cause of a consistent congestion is actually a food intolerance. DON’T use a neti pot in isolation. If you’re not at your best, you also need a lot of water and a lot of sleep.

DO use it for the whole family—even young children and pregnant women. The only time you need to be concerned is if you’ve experienced nasal trauma or you have open wounds. (Salt water = ouch.)


DON’T worry about choosing the wrong one. Even Shopper’s Drug Mart carries neti pots, and they typically come with sachets of salt to make a solution.

DO customize to your preferences. It might take a few times to figure it out, but you can adjust the amount of salt and the temperature of the water to your preference. Solomonian suggests one teaspoon of sea salt with a little baking soda for every pot of water.

DON’T tilt your head to the left or right while using the neti pot. If you tilt your head to either side, you run the risk of getting water in one or both ears—an unpleasant sensation that could possibly lead to an ear infection.

DO expect relief right away. Solomonian suggests using a neti pot twice a day for a runny nose, and the effects of each session should last at least a couple of hours. But there’s no danger to doing it more often, so use whenever you feel the need.

DON’T use while completely clogged. If your nose isn’t actively running, you might not see any benefits from using a neti pot because the saline solution won’t be able to penetrate the nasal cavity. Instead try steam inhalation (head covered with a towel over a bowl of steaming water) first to loosen up the congestion.


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