The use of saline (salt water) irrigations for the nose and sinuses has been shown to be highly effective in improving allergy symptoms and shortening the duration of a sinus infection. Typically, for allergy sufferers, I recommend irrigating the sinuses once every day to every other day with 8 oz of salt water. As there are some data indicating the over irrigating the sinuses can deplete natural immune cells that reside in the mucus of the sinuses, I would not recommend irrigating more than once a day. Irrigating keeps the nose clean, decreases the bacteria count inside the nose and sinuses, and flushes out irritants out of the nose on a regular basis. By doing this, many of my allergy suffers no longer require the use of allergy medications. By improving nasal hygiene and by decreasing the swelling caused by nasal irritants, the saline irrigations also help prevent recurring sinusitis. Sinus infections frequently occur when swelling from irritants, allergens, or viruses causes blockage of the opening of the sinuses preventing proper aeration and drainage of the sinuses. Once a sinus infection occurs, the irrigations can also serve to flush out the pus from inside the sinuses and keep the sinuses open. Typically, during an active sinus infection, I would recommend that the saline concentration of the irrigation be increased 1.5 x fold if the patient can tolerate it. Salt itself has a property of preventing bacteria from growing (that's why salted foods last longer and is considered a preservative). During a sinus infection, rinsing the sinuses 2 to 3 times per day is effective.
Saline irrigation formula/recipe:
1. Salt-containing no iodide or preservatives (these can be irritating to the nasal lining)
2. Baking soda
3. 8 ounces (1 cup) of distilled or boiled water
Mix 3 heaping teaspoons of salt with 1 rounded teaspoon of baking soda and store in a small Ziplock bag.
Add 1 teaspoon of the mixture to 8 ounces (1 cup) of lukewarm distilled or boiled water. Use less to make a less concentrated salt solution if burning or stinging is experienced.
Using a soft rubber ear bulb syringe, infant nasal bulb or a commercial nasal saline rinse bottle from your drug store, use the rinse by following these steps:
- Draw up 8 oz of the saline solution. Tilt your head downward over a sink (or in the shower) and rotate to the left. Squeeze half of the solution gently into the right (top) nostril. Breathe through your mouth. In a few seconds the solution should come out through your left nostril. Repeat the process on the other side.
- Blow your nose very gently to prevent the solution from going into your ear and causing discomfort. If water goes into your ears, it is ok. The discomfort should resolve in a short time.
- If you are using other nasal medications, be sure you do not use it right before irrigating your sinuses - it will rinse the medication out. Use other nasal medication at least 30 minutes after irrigating.
As with any medical product, be sure to speak to your doctor about using sinus rinses and stop using if you experience pain, nosebleeds or other problems.