5 Neti Pot Dangers You Should Know About

Neti pots, despite their adorable name, are sort of controversial. Some people swear by them, some people think they'll kill you, and some people use them even though they heard they could kill you. Neti pots are not all bad, but the average person doesn't need to use one, says Erich Voigt, otolaryngologist and clinical associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at NYU Langone Medical Center.

"People with allergies may make too much abnormal mucous and this, as well as the allergic particles can be washed away with the neti pot," Dr. Voigt says. If you have a cold or sinus infection, your mucous can become dense and thick, but is easily washed away with a neti pot, he says. You can also use a neti pot when you're perfectly healthy to wash away dust or particles that you might have inhaled throughout the day, he says. And if you're still skeptical, Dr. Voigt says neti pots really do help with congestion, at least temporarily.

As for the dangers, there are a few that are totally preventable, as long as you actually do it the right way. You should consult with your doctor before you start using a neti pot, so they can assess whether your immune system can handle it. Here are some neti pot dangers, and how to avoid them.

You could get an infection.

People have gotten infections from neti pots because they used contaminated water or dirty neti pots, says Dr. Voigt. "There are reported cases of brain infection from parasites after neti pot use," he says. In one rare case, someone died because they got an infection from their tap water by way of a neti pot. "Any water introduced into the nose should be pre-boiled — then allowed to cool — or purchased as sterile or distilled," Dr. Voigt says. Even if your drinking water is totally fine to drink, you shouldn't put it up your nose because organisms that would normally die when they reach your stomach acid can live perfectly fine inside your nose.
Neti pots can get dirty.

You should clean your neti pot pretty much everyday, or after every time you use it. Dr. Voigt says you should just do whatever it says on the manufacturer instructions, but antibacterial soap and clean water should do the trick, and don't forget to let it thoroughly dry. It's also a good idea to replace yours every few months, especially if you use it a lot.
You shouldn't go crazy with it.

Dr. Voigt says you really don't need to neti pot if you don't have allergies or an infection, because a little mucous helps your nose. "Our mucous that is produced by the lining of the nose and sinuses is a protective blanket that helps filter the air we breathe," he says. "The mucous also contains antibodies that fight off bad germs, thus we do not need to wash away this healthy, normal mucous with a neti pot." Using a neti pot three times a week is usually enough to relieve symptoms, but if you want to use it everyday for allergy relief, that's also fine.
It can go down the "wrong pipe."

Learning how to neti pot can be slightly overwhelming, because you're putting water up your nose! If your head isn't turned at the right angle, or you're not breathing through your mouth, there's a chance that the saline solution could get stuck in your nasal passages, which feels like you're swimming and got water up your nose. It might take a few tries, but you'll know you're "doing it right" when the water drips out of your lower nostril (you're supposed to tilt your head enough so that your chin is level with your forehead) and you just feel a slight tingling (not burning) in your nostrils.
Cold water can be the wrong move.

Your sterile or distilled water should also be room temperature, not cold. One study found that using cold water in neti pots post-sinus surgery caused bony growths in nasal passages. Even if you haven't had sinus surgery, experts say you should avoid using cold water.
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