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What Is a Saline Rinse?

Pickling salt, which can be used to make a saline rinse.
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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2014
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A saline rinse is a rinse of the inside of the nose with a saline solution, a mixture of water and salt. It can be used to promote healing in the case of a cold, sinus infection, or allergy, or to prevent infection and irritation of the sinuses and nasal passages. A saline rinse solution can be purchased at most drug stores and pharmacies, but it is also easy to make your own solution at home.

A saline rinse works by preventing the buildup of mucous in the nasal passages and by reducing swelling, thereby allowing mucous to drain more easily. It also helps keep the nasal passages moist and reduces pain, irritation, and breathing difficulty caused by blocked nasal passages. Some people regularly use the rinse as part of their hygiene regimen to prevent infection.

Store-bought saline rinse kits typically provide a spray bottle, or neti pot, to administer the rinse. You can, however, purchase a syringe bulb or neti pot, and make your own nasal rinse solution, eliminating the need to continue buying saline rinse kits. To make a saline rinse, add half a teaspoon to a full teaspoon of non-iodized salt, along with a pinch of baking soda, to warm, filtered water. Pickling salt and canning salt are also appropriate options, and you can boil water instead of using a filter to make sure it is free of impurities.

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Perform a saline rinse in the shower or over the sink. Tilting the head downward and leaving the mouth open, insert the syringe or spray bottle into the nose and squeeze firmly, allowing the water to flow into the nose and exit the mouth. You can also squeeze more gently, and allow the water to exit through the other nostril, if that is more comfortable for you. If you notice mucous in the water, continue rinsing until the water runs clear. Repeat for the other nostril.

A saline rinse can be performed as often as needed. Since there will be some drainage after you have performed the rinse, do not use a nasal rinse less than an hour before going to bed, as the salt water can run down the throat and cause a cough. In addition, wait 30 minutes to an hour after performing a nasal rinse to use therapeutic nose spray, as the continued drainage can wash out the spray, causing it to lose effectiveness.

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