Rinsing: The Single Best Thing You Can Do to Keep Your Nose Happy

July 24, 2013 Vincent T. Chan

One of the best parts of living and practicing in Seattle (Ballard in particular) is that I see my patients everywhere I go! Just this last weekend I ran into patients buying bagels, at the Ballard farmer’s market, and walking around Greenlake.

One patient I saw recently asked about her husband who was always complaining about his nose but she hasn’t been able to drag him into my office to be evaluated.  She asked me, “What can I have him do to at home to help his nose?” 

For home care, I may recommend my patients rinse their nose with saline once a day.  Nasal saline irrigation has been well studied in controlled trials and has been shown to improve nasal symptom scores regardless of whether the nose is bothered by sinusitis or allergies.  It is one intervention that practically all rhinologists would agree upon.  Nasal irrigation kits are readily available in most drugstores.  I usually recommend NeilMed Sinus Rinse but Netipots are also fine.  Salt packets are sold premixed or can be mixed at home using non iodinized salt and readily available recipes.  Sterilized or distilled water is best but some patients do equally well with tap water.  When starting, warming the water to body temperature is the most comfortable.  Rinsing the nose in the shower can be convenient to avoid mess. 

Saline irrigation is especially useful in people who smoke or are involved in occupations or hobbies where they are exposed to a lot of irritants or particulate matter.  Rinsing is also effective for those who get sinus infections readily after colds and are exposed to lots of sick people, such as teachers, healthcare workers, etc.  If salt water irrigation alone does not do the trick, check with your primary care doctor or ENT specialist for further evaluation.

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