a woman uses a neti pot

Using a Neti Pot for Asthma and Allergies

If you are hip to the world of alternative and complementary medicine, you may have heard of a neti pot. A neti pot originates from the ancient Indian healing system called Ayurveda.1 It is one of the oldest forms of cleansing and involves cleansing the nasal passages with warm saltwater. Today, this form of cleansing is also called nasal irrigation or hypertonic saline nasal irrigation.

Yogis have been using neti pots as a method of cleansing their bodies for thousands of years, but more recently there have been studies that show that neti pots may provide relief from symptoms related to asthma and allergies. A neti pot has the potential to clear out allergen-containing mucus and help with comorbidities of asthma.2

What exactly is a neti pot?

A neti pot is essentially a very small teapot with a longer spout. I have actually used my normal teapot as a neti pot before; even though the spout felt slightly too large for my nostrils, it still worked. Neti pots are typically ceramic, but some are plastic or glass.

You can purchase a neti pot from your local health food store or even at a pharmacy like CVS. There are also many options if you are looking to buy a neti pot online! I have only used a neti pot, but there are other methods for nasal irrigation like bulb syringes, spray bottles, and battery-operated systems.3

Using a neti pot for asthma

In my research, there was evidence that supported a neti pot was helpful for comorbidities of asthma, such as allergies, allergic rhinitis, rhinosinusitis, and other sinus symptoms.2 A neti pot has the potential to clear sinuses, prevent the spread of sinus infection, and moisten the mucous membranes.4

I read a study that tested the benefits of using nasal irrigation for certain conditions; 7 of the participants had asthma. One of the participants with asthma shared, "Whereas I use the Flovent after the first couple of weeks, I was also using it [nasal irrigation] PRN and I use it twice a day now so that may be making some difference there too. I noticed the neti pot helps with the breathing....”.2

The same study concluded that, “This hypothesis-generating study offers suggestive qualitative evidence that in patients with frequent rhinosinusitis and daily sinus symptoms, symptoms of concomitant allergic rhinitis, asthma or polyposis may also improve with HSNI [hypertonic saline nasal irrigation]”.2 This study suggests that practicing nasal irrigation may help with asthma, but more studies need to be done.

Using a neti pot for allergies

If you have allergic asthma, there is evidence that shows the benefits of nasal irrigation for allergies. A neti pot is used for cleaning the nasal passages, so it can help thin mucus and clear out mucus build up.2 Certain environmental triggers, like pollen or dander, can be trapped in your nasal mucus, so clearing the mucus out could help you find allergy relief. If you’re someone who showers and changes clothes on a high pollen count day, you might want to also consider cleaning out your nose!

How to use a neti pot

To use a neti pot, you will need distilled water and salt that contains no additives (table salt typically has added anti-caking agents). Additionally, some instructions call for baking soda, but this is optional. Saline nose drops can be purchased online or where you buy your neti pot. The University of Michigan has excellent instructions on how to use a neti pot here.4

Warnings regarding nasal irrigation

When using a neti pot it is VERY important to use distilled water. A small organism found in some freshwater, called Naegleria fowleri, can cause a brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). There have been cases of PAM where people do not use distilled water in their neti pot, and this organism travels through the nose and to the brain, causing a fatal infection.3

Most importantly, before trying something new for your asthma or allergies, consult with your doctor! Discuss with your doctor how often you should use a neti pot. Using a neti pot too frequently can dry out your nasal membranes.

Have you tried nasal irrigation before? If so, how was your experience?

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