Clearing Out Nasal Allergies with Saline Irrigations

by Kathi MacNaughton Health Professional

Pharmaceutical research is producing new solultions for treating allergies every year. There are pills you can take, sprays you can use and shots you can endure, all geared to reducing the hold nasal allergies have over our lives. And those are all great solutions...

At the same time, they are invasive. They are foreign substances that we are putting into our bodies. While allergy shots are aimed at eliminating allergy symptoms for good, the pills and the sprays only work for a short while, and only if you keep taking them.

I'm not knocking the value of allergy medications. They are a wonderful thing, that has brought tremendous relief to legions of allergy sufferers. But what if there was a gentler, more natural approach that would provide the same level of relief?

A More Natural Solution to Allergies?

Would you believe me if I told you there IS? And that it has existed for decades? That's right... it's called saline nasal irrigation, with the NetiPot being the most well-known version. The idea is that you flush your nasal passages with a small amount of salt water, also known as saline. The saline washes out mucus and allergens and you have less allergy symptoms. It's a simple, down-to-earth solution and for many, it works like gangbusters.

So, although I have touched on this therapy in past shareposts, I thought it was time I provided an in-depth look at this natural alternative approach to allergy treatment.

What Are the True Benefits of Nasal Irrigation?

Studies show that people who use nasal rinsing, or irrigation, often need to use less allergy medicine, while getting greater relief from symptoms. They also tend to feel empowered and are free from the side effects of medication.

On the other hand, mastering the technique can take a bit of practice and be somewhat messy, at least at first. The saline might be irritating, if you use a brand with additives.

How Do I Do a Nasal Rinse?

Don't worry; it's not that hard. I'm going to give you all the information you need, right here

First, gather your supplies. You can buy a nasal rinse product at your local pharmacy or big box store, such as the NetiPot, but you can also make up your own kit. If you want to make your own, follow these steps.

1. Gather your supplies: 2 clean containers, distilled or boiled water, canning/pickling salt or other non-iodized salt, baking soda (not powder), a small rubber bulb syringe or infant nasal syringe.

2. In one container, put a cup of the water and bring to lukewarm temperature, if not already there. In the other, mix 3 heaping teaspoons of the salt with 1 rounded teaspoon of the baking soda. (This mixture can be stored for future irrigations.)

3. Mix 1 teaspoon of the salt/soda mix into the cup of water in the first container. NOTE: If you feel stinging or burning during the irrigation, decrease the amount of salt/soda mix you use the next time.

4. Some people like to do the saline rinse in the shower to save on the mess, but you can also do it over a bowl or the sink.When you're ready to get started, tilt your head down and rotate it to the left. Don't tilt your head backwards. Next, insert the tip of the syringe into your right nostril, no more than an inch or so.

5. Slowly squeeze about 4 ounces of solution into your right nostril. As you're doing that, try to breathe normally through your mouth. After a few seconds, you'll start to feel the solution flowing out through your left nostril.

6. Repeat these steps with your left nostril, but tilt your head down and rotate it to the right.

You may need to adjust your head position slightly to keep the solution from running down the back of your throat or into your ears. Also, blowing your nose gently will keep the solution from going into your ear.

Are There Any Side Effects or Precautions?

Saline is found naturally in the body, so this is considered a fairly harmless therapy. However, it should not be used if you have a sinus infection. Infections require treatment by a physician.

Also, it would be rare, but if notice any bleeding or pain, you should stop the saline rinse and call your doctor for advice.

Finally, don't stop taking your allergy medication unless you are sure that the saline irrigation is completely controlling your symptoms.

Kathi  MacNaughton
Meet Our Writer
Kathi MacNaughton

Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she's been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.