What is a Sinus Flush?

Margo Upson

A sinus flush is used to cleanse and drain congested or infected sinuses. Saline solution is poured into the congested nostril to loosen and remove excess mucus. Flushing out the sinuses is a safe and effective way to treat nasal congestion without using any potentially harmful medications. Sinus irrigation has its foundation in traditional yoga practices, but it wasn't embraced by the Western medical society until the 19th century. Since then, it has become a fairly common treatment for everything from stuffy noses to acute sinusitis and more.

A sinus flush is used to cleanse and drain congested sinuses.
A sinus flush is used to cleanse and drain congested sinuses.

There are more benefits to performing a sinus flush than just its use as a convenient nasal decongestant. It can flush allergens from the nose, preventing them from aggravating the sinuses of an allergy sufferer. Nasal flushing can also help treat sleep apnea, by clearing out infections and keeping the nasal passages cleared, making it easier for apnea sufferers to breathe while asleep. Regular flushes, once or twice a week, can reduce a person's chance of getting sick by washing away bacteria and infections before they have a chance to grow and spread. It also treats dryness caused by dry heat, dehydration, and old age.

Infected sinuses may benefit from a sinus flush.
Infected sinuses may benefit from a sinus flush.

There are many tools available for a sinus flush. One of the more traditional tools is a neti pot, which resembles a small teapot. Water pic tooth cleansers, used with a special attachment, can also clear nasal passages. Special spray bottles and syringes can also be used. Some prefer the ease, and low cost, of simply inhaling water from a cup, forcing it up into the sinus area.

A cross section of the head, including the sinuses.
A cross section of the head, including the sinuses.

The most common method for performing a sinus flush is through the use of a neti pot or other container used to pour the solution into the nose. The most common solution to use is saline, created by mixing a half teaspoon of salt into warm water. A half teaspoon of baking soda may also be added to the water.

There are various methods of pouring the water for a sinus flush. One way is to lay on your back a bed, with your head hanging off, and then pour the water into one nostril. Let it set there a moment, and then slowly turn your head towards the side with the nostril currently being treated, until you have reached a 45&deg angle. This will allow the saline solution to enter into the nasal passageways, and create a small amount of pressure which will remove extra mucus from the cavities. While still in this position, add more saline to the infected nostril, and wait two to three minutes. After that, return your head to the original position to drain the sinuses.

Another way to perform a sinus flush is to turn your head sideways over a sink, and pour saline into one nostril. If you choose, you can plug your other nostril to give the solution an extra minute or so to work. Once you have unplugged your nose, the water will run out of the lower nostril and into the sink. While this method does not provide the deep cleaning of the other method, it works well for smaller infections and to treat dryness.

A sinus flush is safe and effective, when performed correctly, but it should only be used with your doctor's approval, and it should not be used for anyone with an earache or infection, as it can make the pain worse. It may take a few tries to master the correct way of performing a sinus flush; keep a towel or two nearby while you are learning to catch any spills.

Neti pots contain warm salt water that is used to irrigate the nose.
Neti pots contain warm salt water that is used to irrigate the nose.

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Discussion Comments


It makes the earache worse because of the fluid you probably already have in your ear. Sinuses are connected, and sometimes the saline gets trapped. Make sure you don't sniff in or blow too hard after flushing. This causes more ear pressure. Two times a day works well.


Has anyone actually tried doing this when you have a sinus infection?

Am I supposed to just do the flush once or a couple days in a row?

Just out of curiosity..why does it make an earache worse?

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