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Nasal Wash: An alternative for decongestion medications
Nasal Wash: An alternative for decongestion medications A major advantage to this solution is that it is preservative-free which again, ensures a soothing, and safe, solution.

There is an alternative to decongestant medications for the relief of nasal symptoms. It’s called a nasal wash. This process flushes the nasal passages with an isotonic solution to relieve congestion, eliminate excess mucous, and reduce inflammation in the nose. Nasal washes are used to treat postnasal drip, sinus pressure, nasal symptoms from cold or flu, and irritation from dust, pollen, grasses, smoke, and animal dander. What I am referring to is not new; you may already be familiar with saline nasal sprays, which are slightly similar. Saline nasal sprays have the same concept as nasal washes, that is, the use of an isotonic solution in the nose with the expected result of relief of nasal congestion. However, these sprays do not “wash” the nasal passages; they moisturize the nose with a fine mist. These sprays are commercially available over the counter, in small squeezable bottles. Examples of these include Ocean® or Ayr® nasal spray.

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Nasal washes differ from nasal sprays because they provide a complete “rinse” of the nasal passages. This rinse is accomplished by literally pouring the solution via a “neti pot”, using only gravity, into one side of the nose and letting it “run through” the other side while tilting your head to the side over a sink or tub.

The neti pot resembles a teapot somewhat, with a considerably longer spout that eases the transfer of solution into one nostril. Originally, neti pots were made of porcelain or ceramic, just like teapots; but today, most of them are made of plastic to help prevent or reduce the possibility of breakage. NeilMed NasaFlo® and SinuCleanse® are names of two of the common nasal washing products that you can find in your local drugstore.

The solution used to rinse or wash the nose is an isotonic solution. In other words, it is similar to the tonicity of the fluids in the body. Therefore, it should not burn or irritate the membranes of the nose. This solution can be made at home using lukewarm water, sea salt (or other non-iodized salt) and sodium bicarbonate or baking soda. Most of the commercially available nasal washes are sold with packets of the salt and baking soda combination with instructions to mix with a certain amount of water, thereby making the process easier. A major advantage to this solution is that it is preservative-free which again ensures a soothing and safe solution.

Because the solution is isotonic and preservative-free, it is safe to use in nearly all patient populations including children, pregnant women, and CPAP patients. There are no side effects or potential drug interactions as there might be with oral decongestants. It is especially advantageous in high population areas where the exposure to germs and bacteria is high. Use also when the pollen count is on the rise.

The initial use of the neti pot may feel a bit unnatural but with continued use this feeling will wane. However, please consult your physician prior to using it especially if you have a sinus infection or have had recent sinus surgery.

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"Nasal Wash: An alternative for decongestion medications"
   authored by:
Tamara Dulin, R.Ph., is a registered pharmacist with Nightingale Home Health Care in Carmel, Indiana. A 1991 graduate of Butler University College of Pharmacy, she has spent the majority of her career in consulting. She is a past president of the Ind...

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