A Natural Adjunct For Sinus Relief
|Chau Nguyen MD FACS
Director, Division of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery
Ventura County Medical Center
Assistant Clinical Professor, UCLA Department of Head & Neck Surgery
Using saltwater to clear the nose and sinuses has its origins in India, dating back thousands of years. It is a part of traditional Indian medicine, or Ayurveda. More recently, it has been applied in Western medicine, for mostly similar purposes. Aggregate research shows saltwater nasal rinses to be an effective part of a regimen for chronic sinusitis (Harvey R, Hannan SA, Badia L, Scadding G. Nasal saline irrigations for the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD006394. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006394.pub2).
In practice, we recommend this to many of our rhinitis and sinusitis sufferers. Patients are directed to warm bottled or distilled water to a comfortable temperature, add a mixture packet, and mix. Most patients prefer to use a bottle for the application; but alternatives are a Neti pot (which some find uncomfortable because of the amount that can go back down the throat) or a bulb syringe. Using tap water is discouraged, as there have been reports of contamination with toxic organisms (ie Amoebae). Care should be taken to change out bottles/equipment or to sterilize them on a routine basis.
The beauty and brilliance of this method is in its simplicity. Its use in children can been described. When discussing it with patients, I often liken it to going swimming in the ocean. We sometimes will get ocean water in our nose or mouths, but the risk of harm is minimal (Granted you are swimming in safe water, please check your local beach/ocean report for full disclosure).
We are still studying how this works in the laboratory setting. Possibilities are through a mechanical cleansing action, having a healing/soothing effect on the nasal mucosa or lining of the nose, and potentially breaking up biofilms in the nose, places where bacteria bind together and can therefore be difficult to eradicate. What is very clear is that there is now good evidence to support this fairly standard practice in modern rhinology, in the East and West.
Sometimes antibiotics may be added to the solution, depending on the specific infection. Other research is being done on other natural therapies for the nose and sinus. One promising antidote may be honey!
For more information on complementary and integrative therapies in chronic sinusitis, please see Complementary and Integrative Treatments: Rhinosinusitis. Malcolm B. Taw, Chau T. Nguyen, Marilene B. Wang Otolaryngologic clinics of North America 1 June 2013 (volume 46 issue 3 Pages 345-366 DOI: 10.1016/j.otc.2013.02.002).
1. Complementary and Integrative Treatments: Rhinosinusitis Malcolm B. Taw, Chau T. Nguyen, Marilene B. Wang Otolaryngologic clinics of North America 1 June 2013 (volume 46 issue 3 Pages 345-366 DOI: 10.1016/j.otc.2013.02.002).
2. Harvey R, Hannan SA, Badia L, Scadding G. Nasal saline irrigations for the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD006394. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006394.pub2
3. https://care.american-rhinologic.org/irrigation Accessed July 1, 2013 @ 18:48.