Q. When I was a child, my mother encouraged me to gargle with salt water when I had a sore throat. I just heard Dr. Oz on Oprah recommend salt water in a neti pot for improving sinus conditions. Are neti pots safe to use?

A. A neti pot looks a little like an “Aladdin” lamp. You put lukewarm salt water in this device, hold your head upside down and pour the solution in one nostril until it runs out the other. This ancient Indian practice helps wash out the nose and sinuses. It should be safe though you can accomplish much the same effect with a saline sinus rinse found in most pharmacies.

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  1. ICK

    I will get stuffy afterwards if the water is not warm. If the water is at room temperature or cooler, it will stuff you up, give you a headache and make you feel like you’ve suddenly gotten a cold. Also, my ENT did say to NEVER use the neti pot if you are already too stuffed up from a cold – you could make things much worse. You need to do it at the start of your cold and keep going. Not wait until you can’t breathe to do it.

    • Christopher

      To everyone having bad experiences with a neti: YOU HAVE TO BOIL THE WATER FIRST, preferably with the salt already added (so it sterilizes the salt as well), pour it into the neti pot IMMEDIATELY after boiling (to sterilize the pot) and then let it cool down to body temperature before using. If you don’t boil the water, you will introduce who knows what kinds of parasites, bacteria and/or viruses into your sinus cavities.

      I think we tend to believe the water from the tap or from a distilled bottle is already sterile. It’s not. At all.

      I’ve been using a neti pot for about 10 years now, and I can say this much: IT’S NOT A CURE FOR THE COMMON COLD OR FOR SINUS INFECTIONS. It MAY help you with your current cold/sinus infection, but I have found that it can also make them worse by spreading the infection around.

      The neti pot is intended to be used as a regular part of your health maintenance (like cutting your fingernails), whether it’s a few times a week or month; it’s NOT intended to be used sporadically and only when you’re feeling sick or congested.

  2. Ella

    I often get a blocked nose during or after neti pot and I use the Buteyko nose unblocking technique, Buteyko and neti pot are brilliant together!
    This is an explanation of the technique but basically you gently hold your breathe and nod your head (I also wave my arms around to speed up the process..)

  3. Ella

    For all the people who experience cold symptoms after using a neti pot I have read this is due to not ‘drying’ the nose properly after irrigating. Drying is an equally important stage as if you leave moisture in the nose it can cause cold symptoms for a few days or more. This is a good video showing how to do it

  4. In

    How long before you started to feel normal… Going through the same thing.

  5. MG

    Tried it several times exactly as many of the posts suggests is the proper way to do so and my congestion is consistently MUCH worse afterwards. I am not experiencing the popping ears, vertigo or anything else, just horrible congestion. I cannot breath through my nose AT ALL. No more Neti for me…

  6. JJ

    Make sure you breath through your mouth or you will suffer : ear infections, ear popping, water down your throat and do not hold your head upside down.

  7. as

    I’ve tried holding my breath while using this the netti pot and breathing. tried my mouth open and closed. tilted my head to the side.. no matter what, it goes down my throat.

  8. MGB

    After reading everyone’s postings, I am definitely returning my neti pot! Clearly, to me, the possible bad reactions FAR outweigh any benefits.
    I have a common cold and wanted to try a neti pot to see if it would clear stuffiness and congestion. I was hoping to prevent a possible sinus infection. I have never had a problem with sinus infections other than earlier this year I had a cold that lingered for two months and developed into a sinus infection. So last night I bought the nice brand at Whole Foods and the special salt, I boiled Brita-filtered water for at least several minutes. I waited for it to come to just warmer than room temperature.
    As I was pouring, I tried to resist swallowing but a couple tiny trickles got down my throat. I’m sure this must be a common first time experience. When I was pouring the water in I started feeling pressure in my ears and after a few seconds of feeling this I stopped. I read the simple directions which said to stop and call a physician if you experience ear pressure when using. Well – gheesh!
    I used it for 10 seconds and I already have to see a doctor as a result??? As a result my sinuses ended up getting clogged with water and I have way more sinus pressure, congestion, strange occasional clicking, and now pressure, a little popping, and aching in my ears too! I did blow my nose afterwards but I didn’t do it especially hard or anything. I had all of these symptoms before I blew my nose. Why wasn’t there more instruction and guidance???
    I am hoping it will clear up and my body will just resolve the issue in the next day but after reading all your experiences I hope I haven’t done something terrible to myself! I hope an infection, hearing loss, symptoms that take forever or never go away, even some people have known someone on this post knows someone who DIED from meningitis as a result from using their neti pot. I mean, wow!
    Let me ask everyone a straightforward question: Don’t you think these companies should give more warning and instruction with these kits???? If I knew these possible side effects I would have never tried it and gotten myself into this mess.
    Maybe for people with severe problems that have tried all other avenues could try the neti pot – for some few people the benefits might outweigh the risks. But for the average person and for occasional or common use – the neti pot in my opinion is dangerous!

    • regan

      I’ve been using a neti pot for about 5 years now to relieve allergy symptoms and the occasional cold/sinus infection. I use it on average 3 or 4 times a month. After moving to Japan I discovered I’m fairly sensitive (as in all day sneezing and runny nose) to the scent of my tatami mats in my apartment. As I was pregnant at the time and stuck in a foreign country…one not all that helpful when it comes to pregnancy and over the counter options for treating….anything…I had to look for other options. (The opinion of almost every doctor I’ve visited here is to simply suffer through it – heartburn, hemorrhoid, allergy , morning sickness or even a cold – while pregnant – then it’s just nine months of tough it up .)

      Almost all the issues and fears regarding neti pots, sadly, seem like they stem from improper use..improper sanitation..and improper storage.

      If you’re boiling your water and solution properly, there won’t be biological contaminants – if you’re using filtered water and boiling it, you’re going to greatly reduce any chance of impurities. If you’re throwing in table salt or whatever you have on hand rather than a sterile solution, again you’re taking some pretty big chances.

      This is where user error comes into play. I’ve heard of people running out and buying bottled water that says distilled/filtered and cheating out on the boiling step to save time and using sea salt or table salt..iodized no less…to make their homemade solutions, and they’re just gambling with their health, imo. Then too, some people seem to think once boiled always sterile…they’ll boil a batch, then dump it into a pitcher or water bottle and store it in their fridge or on their counter and use a microwave to reheat it…or keep it in the kettle for days on end. Or they’ll pick up a mixing spoon and give it a stir…all sorts of things to reintroduce contamination. Then they wonder why they get a sinus infection.

      Perhaps the worst I ever heard was a friend who never washed her neti pot…because, what was the point? She only used it with sterile water. Nevermind that she stuck it to her nose or the whole family used it or that her toddler got it down and played with it… yeah. User error and improper storage and sanitation….

      It does take some practice (and the right design of pot…not all netis are created equal) to manage a proper flow. If it’s going down your throat, the angle you’re holding yourself at, the shape of your pot, or how fast you’re pouring could all be part of the problem. I had a cheap plastic pot from CVS and no matter how I used it, I couldn’t find a good angle or a decent flow that didn’t drown me…I spent a little more (and did some review research) on different style of pot and that problem went away.

      That said…I never had an issue with it causing sinus problems, consistently going down my throat, or heard of anyone dying from use of their neti. I’ve read horror stories but…sadly, user error… almost always it’s someone who didn’t boil the water or had some kind of infestation of parasites in their water supply. Bluntly speaking…I’m also the type who doesn’t /drink/ municipal or ground water without filtering it first…so you can well imagine I wouldn’t introduce water into any part of my body without properly filtering and boiling it. I’m also incredibly careful how I store my pot. It gets disinfected and scrubbed after every use, dried and stored in a Tupperware container out of reach of children or pets and I don’t share mine with my family anymore than I’d stick my toothbrush into someone else’s mouth.

      I think people tend to treat these like…something other than they would a medical device and they suffer for it. Maybe that’s overkill…but since it’s something natural that I can control with a little more effort and oversight vs stuffing myself with some chemical a company tells me is safe for me (and who really knows if it is) I’d rather keep it natural as long as I can.

      And not to be too picky, but my neti, at least, came with about 3 pages of instructions and a page of trouble shooting/warnings/consequences of improper use. A lot of it struck me as “do people really do that?!” level of …well, carelessness… (like using straight tap water to save money) and if your pot didn’t have instructions, warnings, and phone numbers to call in case of problems…you may have gotten a bad pot from an irresponsible manufacturer. Hope things go better for you if you ever give it another try.

  9. Erin W.

    I used the Neti Pot for my allergies and it worked in lessening the reaction. I also got it in my ear and spent hours on the internet trying to figure out how to get the water in my ear from a Neti Pot out. I read somewhere that often it is mucus blocking it in the inner tubes.
    So, I tried it again after trying everything else unsuccessfully. That time my nose wasn’t as stuffed and the water went through instead of in my throat and ear. The water that was staying in my ear and causing extreme vertigo went away when I did the second cleansing.

  10. Len C.

    I have tried the netti pots and their good but I like the plastic bottle where I squeeze it, I like the abilitiy to adust the pressure.

  11. Lisa

    hey I read all your comments and I too was having an issue with ear/water getting into ear while tilting head using Neti POT. So I researched the Nasopure and all those squeeze bottle types and I noticed that when people use those, they are not hardly tilted at all. Something about Beroulle’s principle, look it up.
    So today, I tried using the Neti POT but not tilting at all, standing fairly straight, eyes straight ahead. It’s a hell of a lot messier as you breathe through your mouth and the water runs right out of your nose and right past your mouth (and all over your face, bla bla bla) and you are relying on gravity to push the water all up in there. But the big time BONUS was that it seems when you do it that way, the water doesn’t get anywhere near the ear cavity. I had no earache or sensation of water having gone all way up into the ear or sinuses!!!!! Try using the Neti Pot like the squeeze bottle type of nasal irrigators!!!!

  12. jan

    Yes me too and I still have fluid in my ear. It’s been 2 weeks! After snorting the water I was so congested, worse than ever. I had to take decongestants to be able to breathe at night and I am opposed to taking those. The cold left quickly and I feel great except for water in left ear. Can’t get it out. Suggestions?

  13. Mike

    I think I know why this happened. After you finished pouring the water, you blow your nose, right? The best way is to gently breathe out your nose a few times. DON’T plug either nostril, or pinch the bridge of your nose, or back-and-forth wiggle it while you blow.
    This is what happened when you blew your nose – the mucous in there was all water-ed down. Normally it can’t do this, but when it is thinned out from the water, it can “back fire” into your inner ear. This is where your balance sensors are (You have heard that the liquid in your inner ear controls your balance and movement control, right?)
    If that water (which has snot and possible bacteria if you are sick) doesn’t leave your ear, you could get an ear infection, which would make even more pressure on your balance sensors in your ears.
    So, since I only play a doctor on TV, and I didn’t watch you blow your nose, I can’t be sure, but it sounds like this was a nose blowing problem, not a neti problem?
    (I want to rocket-blast that stuff out of there too, immediately after)

  14. ikb

    I think the packaged saline for neti pots has a bit of sodium bicarb (baking soda) in it.

  15. nhb

    You might get a blood test for Celiac Disease. After several years of symptoms that did not go away my daughter found out this is what she has. After giving up gluten she is so much better. It is easier these days to find gluten free products too. We have HEB stores here and they have an aisle of gluten free products.
    She had several chronic symptoms including sinus related and stomach problems. They have now almost completely gone away. There are so many things in your body that can be affected if you have this disease which can be diagnosed incorrectly by a doctor as something else.
    Ask your doctor to give you the blood test. At least rule it out.

  16. da

    overuse such as multiple use a day can augment the mucous buildup. Remember, mucous traps bacteria and irritants. Possible overuse could have actually made you more susceptible to a virus or bacterial infection.

  17. AM

    1.) Squeeze bottles are 100000% better than Neti Pots! They really irrigate the sinus passageways UP inside the sinus cavities & are SOO much easier and simpler to use!
    2.) Try drinking Apple Cider Vinegar (the brand with “the mother” in it most commonly found at health food stores – 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons in 8 ounces of water 3X a day). That alone can help clear congestion!
    3.) Vitamin D (with the apple cider vinegar)
    You can also google about irrigating sinuses with Manuka Honey. I personally find that my sinuses get worse (more irritated!) from using just salt in a neti pot – I must use the baking soda with it. Also, try irrigating with a few drops of Apple Cider Vinegar in a squeeze bottle if it doesn’t sting too badly!

  18. Jake

    WL – To use netiBOTTLE.. If you swim… imagine swimming under water with your mouth open… your basically not letting water in, and with your nose not letting water go down the back of your throat.
    backing just shutting the valves to your throat.. and relax.. it really simple.
    After a while you’ll get so good at it.. that you will in fact allow a tiny bit of the solution to get through to the back of your throat.. to spit it out.. this is where your really going to benefit from the solution in the very back of your throat. But still not allowing it to be swallowed.
    I’ve never used something so real/simple/and safe. No pharma company is going to get you addicted to their other products.. this is natural and effective.
    I don’t even allow a microwave in my home, and my cell phone is always used with headphones, I’m a health cautious freak.. but lol I smoke. yep.. its not ONE cancer causing thing that gives you cancer… its the many exposures you do all day everyday.
    smoking + microwave food + cell to your head + shampoo + plus swallowing small amounts of tooth paste +… etc etc.. ever here about those health nuts getting cancer.. ” she got cancer?? she’s a marathon runner??!!?!?”…. well inhaling car exhaust everyday while jogging is worse than smoking..
    lol got a lil too carried away.. all I’m saying is Netipot, Bottle is just salt and water.. you eat it every day.. so a teaspoon in flushing through sinuses isn’t going to hurt anything.

    • KayCee

      Smoking? Denial much? As someone who has had three family members with lung cancer, two passing prematurely, I urge you to please consider giving that up.

  19. TipForYouAll

    If You have a neti pot … and your skeptical if it works or not. Here’s something a lot of you don’t know, and I advise to do so once in a while..
    first flush both sides..
    then flush one side.. let a bit drain out. Now plug your nose.. now while standing up.. bend over slowly.. and let your head hang down.. about 5-10seconds.. then back up.. and over the sink unplug your nose.. and it will drain…
    You’ve just filled a cavern in your nasal which NO ONE hardly knows about.. this is the area where MOST people think neti doesn’t work, or those with sinusitis never clears up.. its the main membrane to all colds and bacterias.
    Now… after 5 10 mins after neti potting.. .. take a tissue.. and bend over again.. and wait a few seconds.. voila! your nose is dripping..
    You’ve just thoroughly used neti pot to its full potential !
    just letting you all know.. I get a cold I neti pot twice a day.. before I sleep and when I wake.. and my colds instead of being typical 2-3 day symptoms.. stuffed nose, then drainage, then sore throat, then cough, then dry cough.. which is a 7-13 day hell… neti pot cuts those into one thing a day…
    Drink lots of water!!!! and neti pot 2 times a day..
    I love this thing. I used the NEILMED BOTTLE.. way easier. not the pot.

  20. WL

    I have seasonal allergies and did not want to take medication for relief and pretty much suffered through those few months for years. Since I saw Dr. Oz on Oprah talking about using the neti pot as a natural relief, I’ve always wanted to try it, but hesitant about pouring water into my nasal passage. I looked at a few videos on youtube and found one where kids were using a squeeze bottle type instead of the pot. It looked quite simple. If a kid can use it, I can too. I bought one and have been using it for a week. Works wonders and glad I don’t need to suffer through another allergy season! I can breathe so well after using it. I used the SinuCleanse squeeze bottle. Don’t blow your nose too hard after use, only blow lightly. I read that the tissues or membranes are more sensitive after use, so you don’t want to blow too hard.

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