The People's Perspective on Medicine

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.

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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I’ve had post nasal drip 24/7 for several years. A variety of possible causes have been ruled out in doctor visits, tests, and diet changes. I’m 67 and I believe it’s caused by dried out sinus mucus membranes, a matter of aging. What works best is to drink a lot of water, use the Neilmed sinus rinse twice daily along with saline nasal spray. I make my own saline solution for the rinse using 1 part soda to 3 parts pickling salt. I use the commercial spray which is convenient and inexpensive.

I had chronic nasal congestion (and used saline once a day) and discovered a long-term sinus infection, thanks to a CT scan at the time of a TIA. After the antibiotic treatment my EMT MD told me to use a full bottle (about an ounce) of saline every am and again in the pm. I mix up my own and just use tap water because the risk of parasitic infection is minimal in city water. That clears out the congestion nicely and I almost never need a chemical decongestant.

I’ve been using a neti pot regularly for a number of years. I use it weekly, just to “keep the channels clear,” and more frequently if I’m congested.

I have and have used both. Both offer great relief from the congestion and runny nose of allergies and colds. The preservative-free nasal sprays such as Simply Saline are convenient and a lot less messy than the netti pot. I stress ‘preservative-free’. It’s also buffered and makes it comfortable as well as effective. If you’re using a netti pot, make sure you use sea salt, kosher salt or pickling salt. They have no preservatives or iodine. And use a pinch of baking soda to buffer your solution.

After working in my yard for a short time the other day, I was extremely congested. So attempted to use my neti pot trying to relieve the congestion. I was so plugged up that the solution could not get through. This is the first time I have ever been this congested. Had to use decongestion nose spray to open the passages before I could irrigate both nasal passages.

Having had a mother who always look for alternatives to medicine for natural healing I find great comfort in your wonderful articles that I’ve been reading for the last several years. I have become your constant ambassador spreading word of the successful solutions I have experienced. Thank you.

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