Recently, I heard someone refer to a Neti Pot as a "disgusting booger enema." While that's a little crude, it may not be far from the truth, as the FDA has issued a statement saying that improper use of the device can increase your risk of infection.

First, using tap water isn't safe. The FDA recommends using only distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water.

Here's more info from the FDA:

Tap water isn’t safe for use as a nasal rinse because it’s not adequately filtered or treated. Some tap water contains low levels of organisms — such as bacteria and protozoa, including amoebas — that may be safe to swallow because stomach acid kills them. But in your nose, these organisms can stay alive in nasal passages and cause potentially serious infections.

Information included with the irrigation device might give more specific instructions about its use and care. These devices all work in basically the same way:

  • Leaning over a sink, tilt your head sideways with your forehead and chin roughly level to avoid liquid flowing into your mouth.
  • Breathing through your open mouth, insert the spout of the saline-filled container into your upper nostril so that the liquid drains through the lower nostril.
  • Clear your nostrils. Then repeat the procedure, tilting your head sideways, on the other side.

Sinus rinsing can remove dust, pollen and other debris, as well as help to loosen thick mucus. It can also help relieve nasal symptoms of sinus infections, allergies, colds and flu. Plain water can irritate your nose. The saline allows the water to pass through delicate nasal membranes with little or no burning or irritation.

And if your immune system isn’t working properly, consult your health care provider before using any nasal irrigation systems.

To use and care for your device:

  • Wash and dry your hands.
  • Check that the device is clean and completely dry.
  • Prepare the saline rinse, either with the prepared mixture supplied with the device, or one you make yourself.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
  • Wash the device, and dry the inside with a paper towel or let it air dry between uses.

Talk with a health care provider or pharmacist if the instructions on your device do not clearly state how to use it or if you have any questions.