News of a tragic death in Louisiana makes this a good time to talk about the proper use of Neti pots, which are used for nasal irrigation. These have long been a popular, and effective, means of cleansing among our clients, providing many health benefits.
However, users should be aware that pouring water through the nostrils places the water in contact with membranes that provide less of a barrier to infection. The infection that led to death in Louisiana was the result of an amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. E xposure to Naegleria can lead to primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is almost always fatal. This is the second death in Louisiana this year from the same cause.
A few precautions can prevent infection. While many sources recommend warm tap water to make the flushing solution, we have always suggested using distilled water in the Neti pot. It would also be acceptable to use tap water that has been boiled. The Neti pot should always be carefully washed to prevent other infections as well, especially if the user has a cold or influenza.
Incidentally, it is important to use a safe source of saline as well. Makers of Neti pots offer safe commercial products. If you wish to make your own solution, you can use a non-iodized salt (sea salts can be problematic as well, unfortunately, depending upon how they were processed), and add a pinch of baking soda.
We are saddened by this tragedy, and hope that all of our readers and clients will be careful to use their Neti pots safely.
Written by Trish A.