Sinus Irrigation Tips

A How-To Guide provided by ASAA Moderator Vicki:

As an allergy sufferer and OSA patient, here are instructions and information on sinus irrigation. It feels great, gets rid of congestion and decreases the occurrence of sinus infections. Happy nose-hosing!! Vicki

If you have a sinus infection, then you need to irrigate several times a day.

The Principle of Sinus Irrigation

The procedure accomplishes several things;
1. It gets rid of any allergens that might be irritating your nose.
2. It gets rid of any “pockets of infection” that might be forming.
3. It clears your nose and makes it easier to breath.
4. It moisturizes your sinuses.
5. It feels great!!-Really!!

Our noses use tiny hairs called cilia which wave in a pulsing motion to brush matter to the back of our throats where it is swallowed and then eliminated in stomach. A healthy nose is one with moving cilia. Studies have shown that pulsating irrigation techniques keep cilia functioning better than non-pulsing methods. These are the pulsating irrigation systems on the market of which I am aware:

1. Grossan Hydro Pulse nasal/sinus irrigation system.
2. Sinus Irrigators & Hydro-Flo(tm) system by Ethicare
3. Sinus irrigator tips which fit on Water Piks. These are made by Hydro Med and other companies and can be found by Googling “sinus irrigator tips”. You can also check with an ENT or pharmacy to obtain irrigator tips for Water Piks.

Here is one peer reviewed scientific study on sinus irrigation from 2000:

Clinical study and literature review of nasal irrigation.

Irrigation Solutions:

Hypotonic solutions (salt concentration below that of our body) cause nasal tissue to swell. Hypertonic solutions (salt concentration greater than that of our body) decrease or stop the motility of the cilia. Therefore, homemade solutions and most commercial solutions are isotonic (salt concentration equal to that of our body, 0.9%). This recipe and procedure is from the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Scripps Clinics in La Jolla, CA. This solution can be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

"ENT Solution"
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon white Karo syrup
1 pint warm water

Baking Soda-Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) acts as a buffer. Water tends to be slightly acidic. This occasionally bothers some people. The addition of baking soda brings the pH of the solution back into a physiological range. I do not use baking soda unless I have a sinus infection because it helps to absorb the yucky odor.

Karo Syrup-Functions to make the solution more closely matched to our physiological sugar concentration.

Commercial products-There are many commercial products on the market: Sinucleanse, BreathEase XL, Saltaire, Sterimar, Sinus Rinse, NeilMed and Ringers. Oasis is a product made from Dead Sea salt. There are claims that Oasis has an anti-inflammatory effect and may also be antifungal. Sea salts and the other commercial solutions contain minerals so that the solutions are closer to our body’s composition. Clearease contains papaya and other enzymes which breakdown proteins (like mucous). There are probably other options as well. Whatever you use, the consensus is that the solution should be preservative-free.

Xylitol-This is found in some products (for example BreathEase XL and Xlear). Xylitol has been shown to be helpful in preventing bacteria from attaching to the nasal mucosa therefore preventing infection

To irrigate with a soft rubber tip ear syringe:

The kind of bulb I prefer is blue with a blunt clear piece that can be removed from the bulb.

To irrigate the nose, stand over sink with head forward, mouth open and chin out. Insert tip of syringe in the nose and gently squeeze the solution in nose being careful not to swallow. If you feel like swallowing, stop and bend head well forward and allow solution to run out. Irrigate the other side in the same manner, then blow nose, closing off one side at a time and blowing with the mouth open.

The number of times you syringe the nose depends on the amount of mucous in the return flow. Ordinarily douche is performed twice daily initially and then every day to every third day as needed to maintain the effect.

To irrigate with a pulsating system (also refer to manufacturer's instructions):

Set control knob on lowest pressure
Place nasal irrigator tip into nostril and bend over sink.
Adjust control knob until a comfortable pressure is reached.
Solution enters one nostril and leaves by the other.
Switch to other nostril and repeat.
You may gently blow through the nostril not containing the irrigator.
Ordinarily, the irrigation is performed twice daily initially and then every day to every third day as need to maintain the effect.

Do not use if a burning sensation occurs.
Do not force salt solution through nostrils.
Discontinue if ear pain occurs.

Personal Notes and Tricks:

If I am really desperate, like at work, or traveling, I’ll put salt in a cup, snort it and blow my nose a few times. The trick to this is that you have to make sure the salt water is isotonic before you snort it. I stick my tongue in the salt water first to check it. If you have followed the recipes a while, then you learn what the proper salt concentration tastes like.

A frequent poster reminded me that it is a good idea after irrigating to tilt your head all around and bend over with a Kleenex handy. There is a lot of room up there and if you go out without draining all the saline out, you'll find a river flowing out of your nose at the most embarrassing times.