In the past couple of years, saline nasal irrigations such as the NetiPot have swept the United States as an all natural treatment for nasal allergies and chronic sinusitis. But a couple of recent studies make me wonder if nasal irrigation just might not be quite the “wonder treatment” that it’s been cracked up to be.
The First Study: Nasal Irrigations May Increase Infections
The idea behind rinsing your nasal passages out with saline is to sweep out allergens and mucus, thereby relieving allergy symptoms. People have been raving about the positive effects, and you can’t argue the lower cost and less invasive approach than medication.
But now a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology by lead author, Dr. Talal Nsouli, a clinical professor of pediatrics and allergy/immunology at Georgetown University School of Medicine and director of Watergate & Burke Allergy & Asthma Centers, in Washington D.C. suggests that while nasal irrigation can provide short-term relief from symptoms, it also sweeps away protective mucus that actually prevents sinus infections.
Not all experts are interpreting Nsouli’s findings the same, but some doubt on the effectiveness of nasal irrigations has definitely been shed. The study found that the rate of sinus infections increased by 62 percent after nasal irrigations were used.
Nsouli’s recommendation is that, “patients should not use nasal saline on regular basis, only when they have an infection.” You are encouraged to discuss this issue with your doctor for more advice on your healthcare treatment plan.
The Second Study
This study out of Holland provides solid proof that allergies can trigger sinus problems. The study was reported in the December issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery by physicians at the Allergy Research Foundation in Breda, the Netherlands.
Experts have known about a connection between chronic sinusitis and nasal allergies, but the study provides scientific evidence that this is true. The study also showed that when people with sinus diseases and allergies are exposed to allergic triggers, there are immediate inflammatory changes in both the sinuses and the nasal membranes.
They recommend that most people with chronic sinusitis be tested for allergies.
If you have both sinusitis and allergies, then you definitely may want to think twice about using nasal irrigation. Inflamed tissues are generally more susceptible to infection, and if both your sinus and nasal passages are inflamed, this could be an unpleasant and unhealthy combination.
Talk with your doctor to get recommendations on what is the best approach for your health condition
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.