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How to Ease Nasal Congestion with Saline

A simple saline solution in a spray or a neti pot can help rinse out nasal passages and ease nasal congestion due to allergies or sinusitis.
How to Ease Nasal Congestion with Saline
Getting sinus congestion relief with saline washes using a neti pot

Allergies can be maddening. Sneezing, congestion and a feeling of spaciness can make each day a trial. To make matters worse, decongestant nose sprays are only supposed to be used a few days at a time, although allergy season is inevitably longer than that. How can you ease nasal congestion?

Using Saline to Ease Nasal Congestion from Allergies:

Q. Almost three years ago, I was bothered with allergies and took allergy medicines every day. Then I started using a neti pot with a saline solution for the entire allergy season.

Now I do not take any allergy medicines. I only have to use the neti pot when I get congested. I am SO glad to cut my ties to allergy medicines.

I’ve thought: why WOULD there be any studies to combat allergies using saline irrigation when drug companies make bank on sales of the medicines?

Research on Saline Irrigation:

A. You are right that few drug companies would underwrite research on saline solution. There have been a few studies on saline irrigation for allergies, though.

In one pilot study, 25 youngsters with runny nose year round (perennial allergic rhinitis) had fewer symptoms after using saline nasal spray for three weeks (Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, Jan-Mar., 2016). A review of several earlier studies notes that nasal irrigation with saline can be helpful in cases of chronic sinus irritation (Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, Apr., 2013).

Neti Pot or Saline Spray?

As the studies suggest, you don’t have to use a neti pot to ease nasal congestion. But if you are curious about how to use this Aladdin’s-lamp-shaped implement, you can read more about it here. This ancient Ayurvedic practice appeals to many people and is not difficult to master.

Some folks prefer a more modern system of nasal irrigation, such as one made by NeilMed. Another reader found that using plain saline nasal spray twice a day was helpful in preventing sinus problems.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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