Nasal rinses for chronic sinus problems

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Suzy Cohen

     DEAR
     PHARMACIST

As spring rolls around, allergies and hay fever cause problems, and so do lingering strains of colds and flu. Maybe you are one of the 40 million people in America who are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms from chronic sinusitis? It translates to a lot of Kleenex, Flonase and Sudafed! 

Are you experiencing some of these issues: Sinus pressure, headaches, cheek pain, eyeball pain or pressure behind the eyes, puffy eyes, nasal dryness, or a stuffed up nose? Do you have moving headaches or shocks in your scalp, dental pain, or a foul odor that no one else can smell?

Today I’m reviewing some popular devices that can help with chronic sinusitis:

Neti Pots — These are small plastic or porcelain containers from which a saline solution is poured into the nostrils. I recommend the porcelain kind.  Neti pots and other such devices discussed below are better than oral decongestants like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) because they don’t raise your blood pressure or cause spaciness or insomnia.

But they work superficially, addressing nasal and maxillary sinus problems (around your cheekbones), not those of the ethmoid sinuses (near the bridge of your nose) or sphenoid sinuses (behind your eyes). Luckily those conditions are rare, and you’ll need a CT scan of your sinuses to uncover ethmoid or sphenoid sinus problems. 

Pro — It’s affordable and readily accessible at health food stores and pharmacies.

Con — You have to tilt your head in an awkward position to use, and this is problematic if you have neck or back pain. Also, you need to buy distilled water. Please don’t skimp and use tap water, because your sinuses are not equipped to defend against pathogens very well. People have died from a brain-eating amoeba found in tap water, so be sure to use distilled.

NeilMed Rinse

Pro — This squeeze bottle devise flushes you out really well, and is more efficient than a neti pot.  Many people claim it helped them after years of congestion. It comes with individual packets of salt with baking soda, which is instantly alkalinizing. You control the pressure or “flush” by squeezing the bottle yourself.

Con — You may get a sinus headache afterwards. Some people say it causes a sensation similar to the feeling you get when you jump into a pool and water gets up your nose, but this goes away.

Navage Nasal Irrigation — Getting used to this device — which sends water up one nostril and literally suctions it out the other — takes a try or two. It has a “pulling” effect rather than a pushing effect like other devices. Once you get used to the sensation, you can reap the benefits.

Pros — It doesn’t require awkward head positions.

Cons — You have to buy their proprietary brand of salt pods, and the sensation of suction can feel bizarre. You also can’t control or adjust the flow.

This information is opinion only. It is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Consult with your doctor before using any new drug or supplement.

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist and the author of The 24-Hour Pharmacist and Real Solutions from Head to Toe. To contact her, visit www.SuzyCohen.com.