Nasal Rinsing: Fun For The Whole Family!

runnynoseNasal congestion, whether from the common cold or flu, or chronic allergies, can be the most annoying symptom for many people. A runny nose is usually treated with over the counter nasal sprays such as oxymetazoline (Afrin), which works well for up to half a day; this medicine is good for 3-5 days maximum. Another medicine common in almost all combination pills (Tylenol Cold, Bufferin Cold…) is pseudoephedrine. This is called Sudafed in many countries. This pill is very effective at drying the sinuses — almost too effective, as people feel very dried out, also in the mouth. Still, it’s probably the most effective treatment for congestion.

But a healthier treatment is simple, inexpensive nasal saline. A seawater-type spray is very common in treating children and newborns, since the OTC medicine Sudafed isn’t considered very effective or safe for children under 24 months.

There’s also an even better way to use nasal saline; instead of a small spray, you can completely irrigate the nose with a small bottle (~200 cc each nostril) of warm salt water. Many people with chronic congestion from allergies, or repeated sinus infections, love this treatment and swear that it cuts down on their frequency of infections and need for medicines.

Buy One, Or Make One Yourself

sinusrinse One of my professors back in San Francisco, pulmonologist Dr KC Mehta, a few years ago became very wealthy simply by repackaging a small plastic squeeze bottle with some salt packets, and now his NeilMed Saline Rinse packages are in every American pharmacy (yes, I’m jealous). I don’t think NeilMed is available here in China, but there are many other versions available, both imported and local, in some (not all) expat pharmacies and local pharmacies and stores. They usually sell the bottle as well as pre-made salt packets. There’s also another style of bottle called a neti pot, which some find more comfortable.

You can also make your own system. All you need is a medium-size squeeze bottle (try Muji), or even a large 50cc medical syringe, or a bulb.  The syringe or pick should be sterilized frequently or replaced every two to three weeks to avoid contamination and infection.

The recipe: Use a clean one-quart glass jar. Fill with warm (not hot) boiled tap or bottled water. Add 1 to 1 1/2 heaping teaspoons of non-iodized salt (usually not table salt, as it almost always has iodine which makes this less effective; pickling/canning salt is good). Add 1 teaspoon baking soda (pure bicarbonate). Mix and store at room temperature. Then, each time you pour out some into a small bowl and fill your syringe/bottle. You should throw away leftover solution after 1 week.

How often? Once or twice a day is best; twice a day is best for chronic problems.

“Fun For The Whole Family”?

OK, that was a little joke. Many people get grossed out thinking about rinsing their nose. It’s not for everyone, but it’s worth a try since it’s essentially free and has no major side effects. And anyone with chronic nasal issues or frequent colds here in Beijing should think about trying this as a daily routine.

Here is a video on how to rinse your nose properly (from NeilMed website). You can read their  text directions here.

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4 thoughts on “Nasal Rinsing: Fun For The Whole Family!”

  1. Neti pots are even better than a bottle — they were designed for this. You should be able to pick one up at a yoga studio. I got mine, a plastic one made for travel, at Whole Foods in the states. Simply add some salt, put in some hot water, and then you're ready to have fun. It's quite addictive actually… I don't feel clean anymore if I don't do it once a day. It's almost essential for living with Beijing's pollution and dry winter air.

  2. Yes, many people like neti pots. Whatever delivery system you like and whatever gets anyone to do this is just fine! Medically, the neti pot and squeeze bottles etc are equally

  3. Hello, does anybody know where I can buy non-iodized salt in beijing?
    Many thanks in advance for your kind help.

  4. My colleague and friend, Hugh Nelson from International SOS, sent me this good tip:

    "…Our ENT doctor Christoph Caumanns taught us to get allergic patients to wash their snoz with isotonic saline. Christoph said to use a level teaspoon of salt in 1 pint or 1/2 litre. ( Neilmed sachets have some salt and some bicarb and lots of mystique )

    The problem was to find a suitable pressure squeeze container.
    Now we can find these little plastic caps on squeeze containers for everything from fruity drinks to milk products to baby mushy feed to ketchup. They are in supermarkets all over the world now. So I keep one of these ketchup containers on my shelf to show people what they can use. They cost a few kwai depending on what is in therm.
    I wish I could get USD 25 for each of these kits I advise people on :-)…"

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