Sinuses are bony, hollow, air-filled cavities inside the face and skull. They are located in the low-center of the forehead, behind the eyes and in bones behind the nose. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center says the sinuses lighten the skull and produce a mucus that moisturizes the inside of the nose. Unfortunately, when colds or the flu strike, sinuses may become one of the first spots affected by these illnesses. When the sinuses are working properly, mucus will drain into the nasal passages or out the back of the throat. Most of this drainage goes unnoticed. However, the American Sinus Institute says that factors such as allergies, illness, weather changes, dehydration, and dry air can make the sinus mucus thicker and drainage more difficult. This is when problems like infection, stuffiness or throat irritation may occur.
In order to combat sinus congestion and drainage concerns, people may try certain strategies that include flushing the sinuses and thinning the mucus. It is imperative to use safe flushing methods to keep the sinuses healthy. Neti pots are among the more popular methods to flushing sinuses. These small teapot-like devices with elongated snouts have become a fixture in many medicine cabinets. Because they are drug-free alternatives, they can be handy for those worried about antihistamines making them drowsy or reacting with other drugs. Neti pots and other nasal irrigation systems use saline to moisten and clear out nasal passages to promote drainage of sinus cavities.
However, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, using these devices improperly can increase one’s risk of infection. CBS News says that neti pots have even been linked to the deadly Naegleria fowleri, which is otherwise known as the “brain-eating” amoeba. The key to preventing infection is to only use previously boiled, sterile or distilled water to irrigate. Tap water is not adequately filtered, says the FDA, and may contain low levels of organisms that can stay alive in nasal passages and potentially cause serious infections. Those who are concerned about nasal irrigation safety may be wise to skip neti pots and use pre-packaged, sterile saline solutions that are bottled for the purpose of alleviating congestion. However, when prepared water is used in a clean neti pot or other device, these methods can be perfectly safe. Sinuses can get clogged for many reasons. To free up breathing, people are urged to consult their physicians to learn more about how to safely irrigate their nasal passages.