The opinions expressed in this blog post are strictly my own, and the information below should not be relied on as an alternative to medical advice from a healthcare professional. If you have specific questions about any medical matter, you should not hesitate to consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.
Hangovers are the worst. You know what’s even more miserable? A hangover-sized headache without the night before fun. This morning, I had not even made it out of bed before my sinus pressure woes almost convinced me not to leave at all. I gave myself an extra thirty minutes of hitting the snooze button, and then I somehow made it out of bed… only to immediately land on the couch. Half a box of Kleenex later, my head was pounding, my nose was running, and all of the wedding planning I needed to do seemed out of the question. How was I supposed to design invitations when I could barely keep my eyes open?
Luckily, I remembered that I had my secret sinus weapon on hand: a Neti pot. You’ve probably seen them on those doctor talk shows or maybe a friend has suggested it for your allergies, sinus problems, etc. Basically it’s a method of nasal irrigation that uses a saline solution to flush out the nasal passages and thin the mucus. As someone who lives with a cat despite being allergic to said cat, it is my saving grace. If I had used my Neti pot a few days ago when I felt the initial sinus pressure tingles, this morning never would have happened. Believe me, this thing helps every single time! I’m already able to breathe more deeply, and the pressure in my head is quickly dissipating.
I use a NeilMed NasaFlo Neti Pot that I bought at a drugstore for less than $20. The best part is that it came with a ridiculous amount of the saline solution packets, meaning I can keep using this thing for years! Here are seven things you should know before using Neti pots:
1. If you’re going to do it, DO IT RIGHT!
Nasal irrigation is a wonderful thing on which I have come to rely, but don’t be fooled into thinking this isn’t hugely serious. Your nasal passages are very sensitive, very important parts of your ear-nose-throat system! Make sure you read everything included with your Neti pot before using it and follow the instructions to a T.
2. Be very picky about your water.
Most of the directions I’ve read have said to use distilled, filtered, or previously boiled water, but I never use anything but water that I’ve just boiled myself. It gives me peace of mind to see the bubbles myself. No brain infections for me!
3. Patience is a virtue (so my grandmother used to tell me).
Since you have just heated the water up to a toasty 212 degrees, you’ll need to wait until it is just slightly warm before mixing in your saline and flushing it through your nose. Any warmer and you could damage the tiny hair-like cilia that cover the walls of your nasal cavity. It normally takes about 30 minutes to go from boiling to lukewarm, then you should immediately add your saline.
4. Disinfect, disinfect, disinfect!
Wash your hands, scrub out your Neti pot, nuke it in the microwave for 30 seconds (depending on what yours is made of), clean it in the top of your dishwasher after use; be sure to always practice good, clean habits when handling and using your nasal irrigation system.
5. Don’t forget to breathe… just not through your nose!
The sinus rinsing works best when the solution can fully flush out your nasal passages, so relax and keep breathing as you gently pour the saline water through your nasal passages. You’ll read all about this, but make sure to cock your head to an almost horizontal position before inserting the Neti pot into the upper nostril. This positioning will allow the solution to flow more easily.
6. Get the excess saline out of your system.
Once you’ve flushed the solution through both nostrils, you might have a little saline in your throat or running from your nose. That’s totally normal, and you can just spit whatever into the sink. Then, you can gently (very very gently) blow your nose, being careful to not fully block your nostrils or apply any pressure to your eardrums. You may have to keep some Kleenex on hand for a little while, but the saline will eventually leave.
7. Utilize the Neti pot when you first start feeling sinus tickles, not when your head feels like it could explode!
This one’s a bit self explanatory. Let’s just say that from now on, I will use my Neti pot at the first sign of sinus pressure and not as a last resort!