Sinus Irrigation or Nasal Irrigation

Saima Andrabi   by Saima Andrabi, MS, Clinical Biochemistry    Last updated on July 29, 2019,

sinus irrigation

 

What is Sinus Irrigation?

Sinus irrigation or sinus flush is a safe saltwater flush used for getting rid of nasal congestion due to sinusitis. It is also commonly called sinus wash as it involves cleaning of sinuses with saline water. A sinus flush or sinus wash is usually done with saline or salt water. This saline water when rinsed through nasal passages can wash away allergens, mucus, and other debris, and help to moisten the mucous membranes. There are many ways of performing sinus irrigation like using a neti pot, squeeze bottles or bulb syringes which help to deliver the salt water to the nasal cavities.

Advantages of Sinus Irrigation

A sinus flush or sinus wash:

  • Cleans mucus from the nose, and therefore can make the medications more effective
  • Cleans allergens and irritants from the nose, and thereby reducing their impact
  • Cleans bacteria and viruses from the nose and helps in decreasing infections
  • Decreases swelling in the nose and also increases airflow

How to do a Sinus Irrigation/Sinus Flush

Sinus irrigation or sinus flush is one of the simplest, cheapest, and most effective ways to prevent and treat sinus problems. With the help of a home-made solution, you can often relieve sinusitis symptoms, reduce dependence on nasal sprays and antibiotics, and improve your quality of life.

You can follow these below mentioned steps at least once a day:

  • Stir half teaspoon of non-iodized salt and half teaspoon of baking soda into 2 cups of lukewarm distilled or previously boiled water.
  • Fill a small bulb syringe or a neti pot (small pitcher) with the saline water solution.
  • Bend over your bathroom or kitchen sink and then insert the tip of the syringe just inside one nostril, and then gently squeeze the bulb. The water will run out of the nostril into the sink. Use at least one full bulb of solution.
  • Repeat the same procedure for other nostril.
  • Thoroughly rinse your nose with distilled or cooled boiled water.
  • Dry the neti pot or bulb syringe after every use.

Risks with Sinus Irrigation

Nasal or sinus irrigation is an ideal way of getting relief from congestion due to sinus infections. However, this method can be harmful and risky if the water used is not pure. If the water used in this method is not properly filtered, treated or disinfected, it may result in the growth of various harmful microorganisms. These microorganisms may include certain amoebae which may be quite safe to drink, but when they are forced towards the nasal passage, they can live, grow and spread up into the brain where they result in inflammation of brain called amoebic meningitis.

Safety tips for Sinus Flush

As already mentioned above, sinus flush or sinus wash carries a small risk of infection and other side effects, however these risks can be easily avoided by taking some simple steps:

  • Washing hands before the sinus flush.
  • Avoiding use of tap water. Instead use distilled, filtered, or previously boiled water.
  • Clean the neti pot, bulb, or squeeze bottle with hot, soapy, and sterile water and then dry it completely.
  • Avoid using cold water, especially if you have undergone a sinus surgery. Using cold solution in patients who recently had surgery for chronic sinusitis increases their risk of developing bony growths in the nose called paranasal sinus exostoses (PSE).
  • Avoid using very hot water.
  • Discard the saline solution if it appears cloudy or dirty.
  • Don’t perform nasal irrigation on infants.
  • Avoid a saline flush if you have a facial wound that has not healed or if you have some neurologic or musculoskeletal problems that can put you at a higher risk of accidental breathing in the liquid.

Techniques of Using Sinus Irrigation Devices

Different devices like neti pots, bulbs, and squeeze bottles are used for sinus drainage. Sinus flush or sinus wash through these devices involve certain techniques which are discussed below: 

Sinus Rinse Kit Technique (Preferred Technique)


The sinus rinse kit is available with a sinus rinse bottle and mixture packets. When using the sinus rinse kit, you can use the already prepared mixture packets that come along with the kit or you can make your own nasal wash solution at home. The sinus rinse bottle is filled with saltwater and then placed against the nostril. The bottle is then squeezed due to which the saltwater comes out either the opposite nostril or through the mouth. The nose is then blown gently and the same procedure is then repeated with other nostril.

Bulb Syringe Technique (Alternate Technique)

In this technique, a large all-rubber ear syringe is used. This ear bulb syringe can be purchased at most pharmacies. The bulb syringe is then filled completely with saltwater and inserted inside the nostril, which pinches your nostril around the tip of the bulb syringe so as to keep the solution from running out your nose. Gently squeeze the bulb to swish the solution around your nose and then blow your nose slowly. Repeat the same procedure with the other nostril.

Waterpik® Technique (Alternate Technique)

Use a waterpik with a sinus irrigator tip. Transfer the saltwater into the water reservoir and put the waterpik at the lowest possible pressure. Insert the tip just inside your nostril, and allow the fluid to run out either through your mouth or other nostril. Blow your nose gently. Repeat the procedure with the other nostril.

Hand Technique (Alternate technique)

In this technique, you need to use your hands. Pour some saltwater into your palm and then sniff the liquid up your nose, one nostril at a time and then blow your nose gently. This technique may not be much effective, but may be used in some situations.

Cleaning the Sinus Drainage Device

The sinus draining device should be kept clean in order to avoid the bacterial growth. The bulb syringe should be washed thoroughly before and after a nasal wash. All family members should have their own bulb syringe or nasal adaptor. After each use, put a small amount of dishwashing detergent in the bottle and then add water. Then, secure the cap with the tube onto the bottle and shake the bottle. Rinse the bottle, tubing and cap with water and then allow the pieces to dry on a clean towel. If the system is discolored or contaminated, clean the bottle, cap and tubing with 70 % of isopropyl alcohol or white, distilled vinegar. The entire sinus drainage system should be washed in a similar manner always before and after use so as to avoid bacterial infections.