Should You Be Using A Neti Pot? (Hint: Yes)

The winter—and the accompanying hot air we blast through our cars and homes—often leaves our noses dry, stuffy, and irritated. If you’ve torn through box after box of tissues and tried every OTC decongestant and natural remedy in the book to no avail, there’s one simple trick that just might work: a neti pot!

Here’s how it works: You fill this genie lamp-shaped pot with saline solution (water and non-iodized salt), stand bent over your sink, tilt your head to the side, and pour the water right up your top nostril so it flows out the bottom. Yes, you purposely flush your nose with water.

It sounds gross—probably because it kinda is—but people swear by it.

Though neti pots have only become trendy throughout the Western world in the past decade or so, they’ve been used in India for centuries—and they can be hugely helpful if you suffer from colds, respiratory infections, or allergies. “I commonly recommend the neti pot for several reasons,” says Dr. Noah S. Spiegel, M.D., an ENT specialist at Harvard Medical School’s Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. “For one, it’s very effective in removing nasal and sinus symptoms. Two, it’s very safe. Three, it’s a natural, medication-free way of improving nasal and sinus function.” Not to mention it cleanses and hydrates your nose!

When you use a neti pot, you literally flush out any particles (including allergens like pollen or dust) that may get trapped in your nasal cilia (tiny hairlike cells that help mucus move along your airways). In fact, regular use can be helpful for seasonal nasal irritation, according to research published in the European Archives of Otolaryngology.

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If conventional therapies are not helping, a neti pot can be a real game-changer. You might even come to like the feeling of the flow.

Free Your Nose

Spiegel recommends using a dishwasher-safe glass or ceramic neti pot, but a plastic pot works just as well if you’re skeptical or want to save a few bucks. Just replace it every few months to stay as germ-free as possible, says Spiegel. To get your flow on, fill your neti pot with boiled or bottled water (again, germs!) and stir in a pre-made neti pot saline packet (they often come with the pot) or a sprinkle of non-iodized salt. Then, flush away until your pot’s empty!

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When your nose is in need, you can use your neti pot a few times a week, or even daily, says Spiegel. Neti pots are safe for most people (including children), but they’re probably not a good idea for anyone who has a deviated septum, so talk to your doc first if you have any ear, nose, or throat abnormalities.