We love summer sunshine, but not the pollen, dust and other irritants riding zephyrs into our nasal passages. To celebrate summer allergies, snot, mucus and our GROSSOLOGY exhibit, we bring you tips on nasal irrigation and how to use a neti pot. (Perfect gadget for the dad who has everything, right?)

An ancient treatment used in ayurvedic medicine for centuries, nasal irrigation with salt water has been validated by scientific studies to treat many sinonasal conditions. But you have to do it right.

Nasal irrigation is a simple way to clean dirt, airborne allergens (dust and pollen), pollutants and bacteria-filled mucus from your nasal passages.

The flow of saline water not only flushes away debris, it also helps thin sludgy mucus, thus freeing hair-like cilia that line your sinus and nasal passages and allowing them to do the critical work of waving back and forth to move irritants toward your nose and back of your throat. Then, you can get rid of the pesky buggers by blowing your nose, swallowing or discretely spitting into a tissue.

A meta-review of nasal irrigation studies published in Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery found that nasal irrigation reduces the use of medication by sufferers of allergies and chronic sinusitis and reduces the need for surgery. It also improves quality of life for people with annoying sinus and nasal issues.

The comprehensive medical article discusses the pros and cons of adding more or less salt to the saline solution and includes recipes for making your own solution.

What is a neti pot and how do you use it?

A neti pot is a vessel that looks a bit like a small watering can. You fill it with a solution of sterile water and salt, tip your head, and pour the solution through one nostril. The solution will flow through your nasal passages and out the other nostril. Repeat on the other side. It feels strange the first time you do it, but shouldn’t hurt.

Dry your nasal passages by exhaling several times through your nose with your mouth closed. Or gently blow your nose into a tissue.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT use water straight from the tap! Boil and cool it, or use distilled or sterile water. Also, be sure to clean and dry your neti pot between uses.

There are many videos on YouTube demonstrating how to use a neti pot. And here’s a how-to diagram from American Family Physician.

Want to learn more about nasal irrigation? Here’s a good article from WebMD. Good luck and happy breathing!