How to neti pot?

As cold and flu season continues, Americans turn to all sorts of remedies to stifle their symptoms. Among them is the neti pot – a small teapot-like vessel with a long spout used to flush out clogged nasal passages.

Neti pots and other nasal irrigation systems are used with sterile water or saline solution to treat congested sinuses, colds and allergies. They can also help moisten nasal passages dried out by indoor air.

But the FDA is warning that improper use of neti pots can be dangerous and lead to infections, including the deadly Naegleria fowleri – better known as the “brain-eating” amoeba.

In a statement, the FDA said that when used and cleaned properly, neti pots are usually safe and effective. The first rule of safety is to only rinse with distilled, sterile or previously boiled water.

Tap water isn’t safe to use as a nasal rinse because it’s not adequately filtered or treated and may contain low levels of organisms, such as bacteria and amoebas. These organisms may be harmless to swallow because stomach acid kills them, but they can stay alive in nasal passages and cause potentially serious infections. In rare cases, these infections can be fatal.

If you use boiled and cooled tap water, make sure it is boiled for three to five minutes then cooled until it is lukewarm. Previously boiled water can be stored in a clean, closed container for use within 24 hours, the FDA says.

It’s also extremely important that you follow the instructions that come with the neti pot or nasal irrigation system.

“There are various ways to deliver saline to the nose. Nasal spray bottles deliver a fine mist and might be useful for moisturizing dry nasal passages. But irrigation devices are better at flushing the nose and clearing out mucus, allergens and bacteria,” Eric A. Mann, MD, PhD, a doctor at the FDA, said in a statement.

Though each product will come with its own set of information on proper use and care, the FDA provides the following general guidelines for neti pots:

  • Leaning over a sink, tilt your head sideways with your forehead and chin roughly level to avoid liquid flowing into your mouth.
  • Breathing through your open mouth, insert the spout of the saline-filled container into your upper nostril so that the liquid drains through the lower nostril.
  • Clear your nostrils. Then repeat the procedure, tilting your head sideways, on the other side.

When done this way, sinus rinsing can remove dust, pollen and other debris, as well as help to loosen thick mucus. It can also help relieve nasal symptoms of sinus infections, allergies, colds and flu.

To use and care for your device, the FDA recommends:

  • Wash and dry your hands.
  • Check that the device is clean and completely dry.
  • Prepare the saline rinse, either with the prepared mixture supplied with the device, or one you make yourself.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
  • Wash the device, and dry the inside with a paper towel or let it air dry between uses.

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if the instructions that accompany your device do not clearly state how to use it or if you have any questions. Also consult your health care provider before using any nasal irrigation systems if your immune system is weakened for any reason.

Finally, some children diagnosed with nasal allergies as early as the age of 2 may benefit from nasal rinses. However, parents should consult with their pediatrician before use.

Neti Pots, Naegleria and Your Health

By Barbara M. Soule, RN, MPA, CIC, FSHEA
December 16, 2011


Naegleria fowleri
Image used with permission of Dr. Francine Marciano-Cabral, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.

Neti pot1 use is being blamed for the deaths of two Louisiana residents who developed a rare fatal brain infection after using the device to clear their sinuses (The Advocate article). The infections are believed to have been caused by the water-dwelling parasite, Naegleria fowleri. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Naegleria may be present in warm lakes and rivers and geothermal waters, such as hot springs and natural spas. It can also live in inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water. If the parasite is inadvertently inhaled and migrates from the human nose to the brain, it can cause “amoebic meningoencephalitis” and almost certain death. People cannot be infected with this parasite by drinking water.

Neti pot users circulate warm saline water through the nostrils; if water is contaminated with Naegleria, which appears to have been the case for two unfortunate people in Louisiana, the result can spell tragedy. In the case last June of one victim, a young man in his 20s, the infection was traced to the man’s home water system even though the parasite was not found in city water samples. More recently a 51-year old Baton Rouge woman succumbed to the brain infection caused by Naegleria. These cases are troubling, and we anticipate more information will be forthcoming as a result of further investigation.

Unanswered Questions about Neti Pots and Naegleria

What are the water supply sources and how is water treated in the relevant areas of Louisiana in which the two Naegleria cases were reported?

Under what conditions could ‘clean’ municipal water be re-contaminated before an individual uses it?

What is the real risk of infection from neti pot use? What are the relevant factors?

Are there other options for safe neti pot use other than time-consuming boiling and cooling tap water or purchasing distilled or sterile water?

Naegleria: Rare but Deadly

The Louisiana Department of Health cites statistics that demonstrate how rare Naegleria infections are: Between 2001 and 2010, 32 infections were reported in the US, most in southern states and mostly during summer, particularly during extended heat waves. Of the 32, 30 were caused by contaminated recreational water and two resulted from contact with a geothermal water supply. Updated statistics will include the recent deaths associated with neti pots.

What You Should Know about Naegleria

The greatest risk to humans of Naegleria is its inadvertent inhalation in contaminated water, usually through two routes:

Contact with recreational waters:

  • When swimming in freshwater lakes and rivers, particularly in the South, nose clips can be worn to prevent inhaling infected water. Caution should also be exercised around geothermal waters. The CDC recommends avoiding water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels. It is best not to dig in or stir up sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm, freshwater areas.
  • Swimming pools must be adequately disinfected to destroy Naegleria and other waterborne pathogens. The CDC and the Water Quality & Health Council recommend swimmers use pool test kits to check pH and free chlorine levels of chlorinated pools before swimming. If readings are out of the appropriate range (pH between 7.2 and 7.8; free chlorine level between 1 and 3 parts per million), a pool manager should be notified. If pool chemistry is not properly adjusted, the local public health department should be contacted.

Net pot use:


Neti pot image from:
Neti pot Facebook page

  • When using a neti pot, follow directions for preparing saline water solutions. A December 6 press release issued by the Louisiana Department of Health and a CDC online resource urge neti pot users to use distilled, sterile or previously boiled water (least expensive option) to make up the irrigation solution.
  • Clean and disinfect neti pots after use. After washing with soap and water, rinse with a solution of ½ tablespoon of chlorine bleach added to ½ gallon of water and allow to air dry.

News of rare Naegleria infections is not cause for alarm, just reason to be well-informed. We pledge to follow this issue and keep you updated.

Barbara M. Soule, R.N. MPA, CIC, is an Infection Preventionist and a member of the Water Quality & Health Council.

For more information on disinfecting surfaces, please go to www.disinfect-for-health.org.

For more information on disinfecting pools, please go to www.healthypools.org

1Neti pots may also be known as nose bidets, nasal douches, nasal rinses, nasal cleansing pots, among other terms.

How to Use a Neti Pot Safely–and the Best Ones to Buy

RELATED: When It’s Safe to Use Hand Sanitizer—and When You Absolutely Need to Find Soap and Water

How do you use a neti pot?

“Most people can get the hang of using a neti pot fairly quickly,” says Dr. Madden, even though it can be awkward and intimidating at first. After you fill the pot, tilt your head over a sink and gently pour the solution into whichever nostril is on top. “Leave your mouth open, so you’ll be able to breathe through your mouth, and the solution will go in one nostril and out the other.”

After you’ve successfully irrigated one nostril, blow your nose to remove any remaining liquid. Then, repeat on the other side.

There are no official guidelines for how often people should use a neti pot, says Dr. Madden, but she recommends that people with a respiratory illness or allergies use it four or five times throughout the day. “Once your illness is over, just for maintenance or general nasal cleanliness, you can use it two to three times per week,” she adds.

If you experience side effects like nasal irritation, stinging, or nosebleeds, it’s a good idea to avoid nasal irrigation and talk to your doctor, instead.

RELATED: The Scientific Reason Why Your Colds May Be Worse Than Everyone Else’s

How to choose a neti pot

Most simple neti pots range in price from $10 to $30, while more complex nasal irrigation systems can cost over $100. Dr. Madden doesn’t recommend one brand or one material over another, instead saying that “patients just need to find the device that works for them and make sure that they’re keeping it clean.”

Here are a few of the highest-rated neti pots on Amazon you might want to try to clean your nasal passages and feel better fast.

• Baraka Ceramic Neti Pot ($25, amazon.com)

• ComfyPot Ergonomic Ceramic Neti Pot ($18, amazon.com)

• HailiCare Nasal Wash Pot ($14, amazon.com)

• NoseBuddy Neti Pot ($22, amazon.com)

• Rhino Horn Premium Neti Pot Nasal Cleaner ($17, amazon.com)

Plus, you can add distilled water to your cart, too:

• CPAP H20 Premium Distilled Water ($27 for 12 20-oz. bottles, amazon.com)

• Deer Park Distilled Water ($25 for 6 gallons, amazon.com)

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Use a Neti Pot? No, You Probably Won’t Get a Brain-Eating Amoeba.

Basics of neti pot safety

Enter the neti pot. Neti pots can be helpful sinus irrigation tools for people who suffer from chronic sinus problems such as rhinitis or sinusitis.

If you’re someone who uses a neti pot, that recent story might have you on edge. Should you continue to use it and, if so, how do you know that you’re using it safely?

Neti pot safety is pretty simple and easy to do, Lynch says. The main points: Keep your neti pot clean by washing it after each use, and only use sterile distilled or saline water to actually rinse your sinuses with (so, no tap water unless you boil it first and then let it cool).

“If you do that, there’s really no danger to using a neti pot,” Lynch says.

Another thing to keep in mind is that people who have a medical condition that weakens their immune system may be at greater risk and should be extra careful that they’re fully cleaning a neti pot and using sterilized water.

Amoebic infections are rare

There are other ways for a brain-eating amoeba to get up your nose, though they’re all rare. Occasionally, people contract amoebic infections by swimming in fresh water or an untreated swimming pool, or going to a spa or hot spring and somehow getting water up their nose.

Amoebic infections are even rarer in the Pacific Northwest, where we don’t have a lot of warm standing pools of water, Lynch says.

Cold, rainy weather for the win.

How to Use a Neti Pot – A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

Melissa Neiman November 8, 2019 Wellness Email Print Twitter Pinterest Facebook

This post was most recently updated on November 11th, 2019

Neti, also known as nasal irrigation, is a popular home remedy for upper respiratory congestion and sinus symptoms. The practice, which uses a pot that resembles a tea pot, began thousands of years ago in ancient India as an Ayurvedic yoga tradition.

Simply put, neti pots wash away dirt, dust, pollen and other irritants and rid the nose of excess mucus. Although the devices can be used with distilled water, many people choose to use a saline solution, which can help reduce irritation.

How to Use a Neti Pot

A neti pot is relatively simple to use. Here’s how:

First, check Your equipment

Before you use a net pot, make sure you have the following:

  • A premixed saline packet or neti salt
  • Distilled or sterile water

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), other safe water sources include tap water that has been boiled for three to five minutes and cooled until lukewarm or water that has “passed through a filter designed to trap potentially infectious organisms.” Never fill your neti pot with water straight from the tap as this can pose serious health risks.

Next, prepare your saline solution

Make sure your hands—and your neti pot—are clean and dry. Then fill the pot with warm water and add a premixed saline packet or neti salt, according to package directions. You can also choose to add an aromatic neti post boost, if desired.

Then, irrigate your nasal passages

Although instructions may vary by neti pot, the process is typically as follows.

  1. Lean over a sink and tilt your head so it is at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Breathe gently through your mouth and carefully place the neti pot’s spout inside your top nostril (taking care not to touch your septum). This will cause the saline mixture to drain out of your bottom nostril.
  3. Continue pouring the solution until the neti pot is empty.
  4. Once the pot is empty, straighten your head and gently clear the nostril with a tissue to eliminate extra discharge.
  5. Repeat these steps for your other nostril.

Lastly, clean your neti pot

Clean your neti pot with antibacterial soap, 70 percent isopropyl alcohol or white, distilled vinegar after every use to help prevent contamination. After cleaning, rinse the pot with distilled water that is below 120 degrees. Allow the pot to air dry on a clean paper towel.

Neti pot safety

Nasal irrigation is an effective way to reduce congestion and alleviate allergy and sinus symptoms. But it’s important to be cautious when using a neti pot.

As we mentioned above, be sure to use a safe water source (e.g., distilled, sterile or properly boiled tap water) with your neti pot. Other safety tips include:

  • Only use lukewarm water in your neti pot.
  • Clean your neti pot after every use.
  • Replace your neti pot regularly to avoid build up of bacteria and microbes.
  • Stop using your neti pot if you experience stinging of the nostrils or ear pain.
  • Discontinue use if symptoms don’t improve.
  • Consult a pediatrician before using a neti pot on a child.

Ready to give it a try? Check out these products available at Vitacost.com.

Melissa Neiman

Melissa Neiman is a seasoned wordsmith who traded in the beautiful beaches of South Florida for the majestic mountains of Colorado. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and on websites, including eDiets.com, iVillage.com, Bankrate.com, MSN.com and Yahoo! Finance.

Melissa Neiman is a seasoned wordsmith who traded in the beautiful beaches of South Florida for the majestic mountains of Colorado. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and on websites, including eDiets.com, iVillage.com, Bankrate.com, MSN.com and Yahoo! Finance.

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Sweater weather is back, 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 be the trick.

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 recently 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. Solomonian also suggests a good quality probiotic and immunomodulating herbs, such as ginseng and astragalus, until you’re back to full strength.

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.

Have you ever used a neti pot? Did it work?

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