Sinusitis can be the bane of your existence. In chronic cases--especially those triggered by common allergens--fatigue, headaches and congestion become unwelcome features of daily life. While struggling to escape these symptoms and maintain productivity, it is easy to sink a lot of money into prescription and over-the-counter pills and nasal sprays. Sinus irrigation, also known as lavage, is an inexpensive and natural treatment that has given many relief from sinusitis symptoms and shows promise as a preventative.
Consult your doctor before self-treating a sinus condition.
Sinus irrigation simply involves rinsing your nasal and sinus passages with a salt solution, or a dissolved mixture of salt, a.k.a. sodium chloride, and baking soda, a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate. Sinus irrigation is commonly said to have been a part of yoga tradition for at least 1,000 years. It is now a widely accepted practice in the United States, where many allergists sell sinus irrigation kits from their offices. The intent of sinus irrigation is to clean out mucous and irritants such as dust and pollens. Sinus irrigation can also make life in your sinus passages difficult for infection-causing bacteria.
Less mucous in your sinus and nasal passages translates to easier breathing. In a series of four studies conducted over a seven-year period by Dr. David Ragabo of the University of Wisconsin, a majority of participants who suffered from chronic sinusitis and used sinus irrigation on a regular basis reported that their symptoms lessened enough to allow them to decrease use of nasal sprays and antibiotics. The Mayo Clinic website also suggests sinus irrigation as a home remedy for chronic sinusitis.
Bad for Bacteria
Salt is one of mankind's oldest weapons in the war against spoilage and infection-causing bacteria. It has been used to preserve food since the beginning of history. Basically, salt shrinks bacterial cells by drying them out. The scientific word for this process is osmosis. Water, even at the cellular level, seeks balance by moving from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. Since bacteria cells are largely comprised of water, they suffer loss of cellular content when immersed in a salt solution.
Making a Sinus Irrigation Solution
With its cleaning and bacteria-bashing powers, sodium chloride, more commonly known as salt, is the essential ingredient in a sinus irrigation solution. However, many add sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda, to the mix as well in order to lessen the sting. Melissa Pynnonen, M.D., of the University of Michigan recommends using 1/4 tsp. of each dissolved in 8 oz. of distilled water, to be used once or twice a day. Look at the ingredients of a commercial packet of sinus rinse powder and you'll find sodium chloride and sodium bicarbonate. There's no need to spend money on prepackaged powders unless you value the convenience.
Use and Options
Sinus irrigation is easy and inexpensive. You can obtain a bulb syringe, a neti pot or a squeeze bottle at low cost. Use is as simple as leaning over a sink and tilting your head so the irrigation solution can enter one nostril and exit the other. You can push your tongue toward the roof of your mouth in order to keep the solution from escaping through the mouth. The sensation is strange and somewhat uncomfortable at first, though you can lessen the discomfort by using warm water. Dr. Pynnonen recommends that you clean your dispenser after each use.
For those who cannot become comfortable with using a neti pot or a squeeze bottle and are willing to spend for the sake of relief, there are now several powered sinus irrigation devices on the market.
- University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health: Nasal Irrigation Helps Control Sinus Problems
- Mayo Clinic: Chronic Sinusitis Lifestyle and Home Remedies
- Science Encyclopedia: Characteristics of Bacteria, Bacterial Growth, Physical and Chemical Requirements for Bacteria Growth, The Role of Bacteria in Fermentation, Aerobic and Anerobic Bacteria
- University of Michigan Health System: Saline Nasal Sprays and Irrigation