Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Neti Pot: Friend or Foe?

Neti pot-using looney bird. 

There is a self-torture device sold in drugstores made popular by masochists and people who support masochism- namely Oprah- called the “neti pot.” The neti pot looks charming, like a tiny tea kettle, but don’t let its unassuming appearance fool you. The neti pot is actually a very convenient and socially-accepted way to waterboard a person. Unlike traditional waterboarding methods, however, the victim will come out of the experience with remarkably clear sinuses.

I have a sinus infection that seems determined to linger on until the end of time. A friend recommended relief through the neti pot. She offered to let me borrow hers, and although her nose is lovely, and I’m sure her pot is clean and sanitized, I felt fiscally confident enough to run off to Rite Aid and buy their plastic version. It was on sale for 8.99 and came with 50 saline packets.

The kids were immediately taken with it. Ella wanted to use it to serve tea to her dolls. I told them it was actually the lamp of a “less fortunate” genie. I went on to explain that while 1% of genies get to live in gorgeous, golden lamps, the rest live in plastic lamps mortgaged out the ying-yang, or government-subsidized ones that get stuck up people’s noses. I then explained the positive and negative aspects of capitalism. It was a “teachable” moment.

But I digress.

Using the neti pot is akin to giving your nasal passages an enema, and is probably an equally enjoyable process. To administer: first, fill the pot to the brim with lukewarm water. The instructions emphasize the importance of lukewarm. Too hot, and you’ll lose all sense of smell forever; too cold, and you will experience immeasurable amounts of pain. After you’ve filled the pot, you dissolve the saline solution into the water. Then, you stick the nozzle into one side of your nose, lean your head over the sink, turn it slowly so that gravity pulls the water into your nose, and wait.

The water is supposed to flush out mucus and then drain out of the other nostril into the sink. However, everything in that region of the head is interconnected: the throat, the nose, the ears, etc. The instructions say to “continue breathing through your mouth as you administer the solution.” It is hard to breathe when you are drowning.

I experimented by tilting my head in various ways and finally succeeded in flushing out the right side of my nose. Encouraged, I repeated on the left.

Though the left side of my nose looks exactly the same as my right side, apparently it’s a whole different ballgame inside. Within five seconds of administering the procedure, my nose started burning, water spilled into my throat and out my mouth, my eye started watering, and I swear I heard dolphins singing. There was a lot of choking and sputtering. I ceased and desisted immediately, regrouped, and tried again. I forced the remainder of the solution through my nasal passageways, bravely enduring the burning sensation. Masochist.

Afterwards, you’re supposed to gently blow your nose. Gently is stressed. I ignored that completely, and as I blew my nose, my ears basically imploded into my brain. This morning, I am fairly certain I am developing a double ear infection. Also, there is a chirping sound- like a little parakeet- when I breathe through my nose. I do not think this is normal. The instructions say some people’s ear passageways are wider than others, and if discomfort persists, to discontinue use of the neti pot. Now, of course, I am concerned about the ramifications of having shockingly wide ear passageways that invite the sloshing of random fluids and provide a spot for hamsters to do agility training.

The good news: I slept through the night for the first time in over a month, though I can’t be sure whether that was the work of the neti pot or the hydrocordone I’ve been saving for a rainy day. And yesterday, it rained salt water in my nose. So there you go.

In conclusion, here is what I’ve decided about the neti pot: While the instructions insist you should continue breathing through your mouth during the process, I submit this is horse crap. Hold your breath and block the passageway to your throat. This could save your life. Second, unless you enjoy the sensation of breathing in water taken straight from the Dead Sea, use half a saline packet at first. Your nose will thank you. Third, blow your nose gently afterward unless you want to block off ambient sound. (I suppose this could be a benefit for some.) Finally, for getting a good night sleep while suffering from a sinus infection, narcotics always trump homeopathic remedies. Always.

The jury’s still out on whether to continue use of the neti pot, donate it to Ella’s tea party play, or ship it off to Guantanamo Bay. We’ll see if my hearing returns before I make any final decisions.


Christen Piston said...

Hahahaha. I, too, nearly drowned when I first used the netti pot. It has never really gotten better. I'm now onto "oil pulling," google it. I'm certain it's blog material! lol

My name is Heather. said...

i laughed out loud. thank you. i always enjoy reading your posts.

Toaster said...

I think I used about 1/4 of a saline packet--and I've never even had a sinus infection! :o

hokgardner said...

Once a year, when my allergies are bad, I pull out the Neti pot to give it another try. After two days I remember why I'd shoved it under the bathroom counter. I cannot seem to do it without filling my ears with water, leading to ear infections. And did you know, doctors give you a funny look if you are a 41-yo with an ear infection.

Mary (Jennings) Edwards said...

I would say foe to comfort but those who are brave enough to attempt the Neti Pot - maybe it could be their friend. I refuse to try it, we do have one - Carl uses it.

Elizabeth said...

Sorry about your sinus infection - I can relate !

I used the neti pot for a while last year ... was close to useless. Then I gave up dairy and have had no need for it since :-)

billcook said...

if you had taken my advice and used the saline nasal spray instead... I wouldn't have ejected coffee out of my nose while reading this!

Jessica said...

LOL I had the same thing happen with Neti pot - one side of my nose cleared out fine. The other not so much LOL ;) But I continued on and it did help me get rid of my stuffy nose! Which was useful given I can't take much when pregnant. Good luck ;)

Amanda Gibson said...

I've heard good things about the neti pot but never tried it myself. Something about flushing water up my nose kind of freaks me out.