Nasal washing using a neti pot is more effective in unclogging blocked sinuses than using steam inhaling techniques or medications, finds a new study.
Each year, millions of people around the world are diagnosed with sinusitis, which involves inflammation of the nasal cavities often caused by a virus, allergy, bacteria, fungus or possibly an autoimmune reaction.
Researchers behind the study say people with chronic and recurrent sinusitis have poor quality of life, similar to having a major chronic disease. They point out that providing something really simple that empowers people to manage this problem, helps them with their symptoms, reduces the need to take over-the-counter medications, and makes them less likely to want to see the doctor in future attacks.
For those with chronic sinusitis, doctors often recommend steam inhalation or nasal irrigation by rinsing the sinuses with a saline (salt-based) solution.
To evaluate the effectiveness of these two common treatments, researchers followed nearly 1,000 patients who had a history of chronic or recurrent sinusitis. Participants were assigned one of four treatments: daily nasal irrigation with saline plus use of an instructional video; daily steam inhalation; a combination of both; or their usual treatment which was at the discretion of their physician and could include antibiotic medications.
Participants in the nasal irrigation group were given a neti pot, a vessel designed to rinse mucus and debris from the nasal cavities. (Typically, they look like little teapots with long spouts.) These individuals were asked to irrigate their nose daily with about 150ml of saline solution in each nostril. The solution was made of 1 teaspoon salt and a half teaspoon of baking soda combined in 1 liter of water. Meanwhile the steam treatment group was asked to inhale steam for five minutes every day. They were directed to place a towel over their head and stand over a bowl of recently boiled water.
At three months and six months, the researchers found that patients who used nasal irrigation reported improvement; those using steam inhalation said headaches had eased, but they appeared to have no congestion relief.
The study authors also noted that fewer participants in the nasal irrigation group (compared to no-irrigation patients) took over-the-counter medications, had headaches, or intended to consult a doctor in future episodes. They notethat people suffering from sinusitis often get repeated courses of antibiotics, which may not help much and may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance.