What is a Saline Sinus Rinse?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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People who suffer from repeated sinus infections, colds, allergies, and even dry nasal membranes can benefit from using a saline sinus rinse. A saline sinus rinse is an all-natural, non-habit forming method of reducing allergens and thick mucus from collecting in the nasal passages. It may lower the rate of sinus infections for those prone to them, and prevent the use of prescription antibiotics.

A saline sinus rinse works by preventing the nasal passages from becoming encrusted in mucus. It thereby allows the sinus passages to drain properly. With proper drainage, sinus infections and the symptoms of colds and allergies can be reduced.

Over-the-counter remedies can be purchased at any drug store or even most shopping centers. However, making your own saline sinus rinse is easy and inexpensive. The ingredients are very common and most people have them on-hand:
• 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of non-iodized salt
• ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) of baking soda
• 1 cup (250 ml) of filtered warm water


Simply mix the ingredients and place the solution in a sterile sinus rinse bottle or a nasal bulb. Then, head to the shower – the easiest place to clean when the process is finished. Squirt the solution in one nostril at a time. If done properly, the solution will come out of the mouth or the other nostril. Using a saline sinus rinse will cause the mucus and allergens to wash out of the nose. The nose will drain for almost an hour after the procedure is completed.

There are a few things to bear in mind when completing a saline sinus rinse. First, make sure the solution does not drain down the throat. It could cause irritation. Second, to keep the solution from draining into the ears - blow the nose – but not forcefully. Third, wait about an hour before using prescription nasal sprays – they will work better and will not drain as quickly at that time. Fourth, avoid using a saline sinus rinse if the nose is severely blocked.

A saline sinus rinse may be awkward and uncomfortable at first. However, once the proper head positioning is found, the entire process can be quick and effective. Practice and check with a medical doctor at any time.

As with any medical condition, it is important to consult a medical doctor before starting the procedure. At times, infection may already be present and antibiotics may be unavoidable. Also, if the problem persists a doctor may need to be consulted.


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Discuss this Article

Post 6

@lovealot - I use the neti pot for a sinus wash as well. And I love it! I do not have to use it often but when the change of seasons rolls around or their is a cold going around my office, I use the neti pot at the first sign of congestion and I feel better immediately.

However, the neti pot I bought came with the stuff that you mix in the distilled water so when I ran out I was not sure if I needed to go buy more, so I am thankful for the simple saline sinus rinse recipe!

Now I can make it at home!

Oh and one suggestion, before one puts the saline

water mixture in your nose - test the temperature. My neti pot says to heat up the water so I heat it up to as warm as I can stand and one time I forgot to test the temperature before putting it in my nose!

While I think the hot water did a little extra cleaning to my sinuses, it was not the best feeling, so always test the temperature!

Post 5

A sinus rinse with salt water is a particularly nice alternative to medication if you are pregnant or nursing and want to avoid medication. There are a lot of cold and allergy medicines that are generally considered safe during pregnancy, but taking meds was never my first choice.

Some people find that they can use warm tap water, but I always had to use bottled distilled water, warmed up a bit in the microwave. Tap water stung my nose like crazy!

Practicing a few times in the shower might be helpful at first, but I didn't find it necessary to take a shower after rinsing. Once you get the hang of it, you can use a kitchen or bathroom sink without making too much of a mess.

Of course, once the baby actually arrives, it's a little tricky to find those five minutes twice a day!

Post 4

I use a sinus neti pot to clear my nostrils and sinuses of mucus. A neti pot looks like a small teapot. You mix a saline solution with warm water and tip your head to the side and pour the solution through the spout into the nostril. It takes a little practice to get the right angle so the solution goes in one nostril and out the other. Then you switch to the other nostril and do the same thing.

I have narrow nasal cavities and this helps to clear any dried mucus that blocks breathing. It works well for me. If I feel sick and there are signs of infection in the mucus, I would check with a doctor.

You can buy a neti pot at any drug or variety store for a reasonable price. Neti pots have been used for centuries.

Post 3

This makes me think of the episode in Six Feet Under where a character produces a neti pot (a container used solely to give a saline sinus rinse) that he uses in order to "irrigate" his sinuses each day.

He claims this is one reason that he has never suffered from a cold and tries to get the other characters enthused about it.

Predictably, none of them are, and in fact a couple are horrified he would bring something like that into the kitchen.

It's interesting that that would probably be the typical reaction, even though there are good reasons to think that he is right.

I guess people just don't always think past their initial disgust reaction.

Post 2

@Mor - I think that it was lucky your friend didn't have a more serious sinus infection. while a saline sinus wash can be really good to clear a blocked nose, and even to treat a small infection, I'm not sure it should be used by itself when there is something more serious happening.

Even if you are traveling through places which don't have much infrastructure, you might still be able to find a place that will have a doctor who is able to prescribe antibiotics.

And sometimes if you plan ahead, you can get travelers' emergency packs of antibiotics as well.

It just makes me nervous to think that something serious might happen to people who go traveling without preparation.

Post 1

I had a friend who was traveling with me in West Africa for a while. We had both had our share of different bugs, but so far had been OK. Then he started having these horrible sinus headaches.

I was really worried we'd have to cut the trip short, because he was feeling so poorly. He said it felt like there was a balloon inflating behind his eyes and that it was crushing everything.

As a last resort, he tried having a nasal sinus rinse, although he was convinced it wouldn't work.

After squirting salt water up his nose he got this funny look on his face, and then suddenly a lot of what had been bothering him came out.

It was kind of disgusting, but made us both happy because it meant the trip could go on! He was amazed at how effective the rinse was, and now he does it whenever he gets an infection.

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