Make your own saline rinse: Combat sinus infections

Image courtesy of the NIH MedlinePlus.

Image courtesy of the NIH MedlinePlus.

Looking for a natural way to find relief from allergy or sinus infection symptoms? The use of saline (salt water) irrigations for the nose and sinuses has been shown to be highly effective in improving allergy symptoms and shortening the duration of a sinus infection.

Typically, for allergy sufferers, I recommend irrigating the sinuses once every day to every other day with 8 ounces of salt water.  There is data that indicates over irrigating the sinuses can deplete natural immune cells that reside in the mucus of the sinuses. I would not recommend irrigating more than once a day.

The advantages of irrigating includes:

  • Keeping the nose clean
  • Decreasing the bacteria count inside the nose and sinuses
  • Flushing out irritants out of the nose on a regular basis.

By doing this, many of my allergy suffers no longer require the use of allergy medications.  Irrigation has been shown to improve nasal hygiene and decrease the swelling caused by nasal irritants. The saline irrigations can also help prevent recurring sinusitis.

Sinus infections frequently occur when swelling from irritants, allergens, or viruses causes blockage of the opening of the sinuses, thus preventing proper aeration and drainage of the sinuses.

Once a sinus infection occurs, the irrigations can also serve to flush out the pus from inside the sinuses and keep the sinuses open.  Typically, during an active sinus infection, I would recommend that the saline concentration of the irrigation be increased one and a half fold if the patient can tolerate it.

Salt itself has a property of preventing bacteria from growing (that’s why salted foods spoil slowly).  During an acute sinus infection, rinsing the sinuses 2 to 3 times per day is effective.

Saline Irrigation Formula

Ingredients

  • Salt-containing no iodide or preservatives (these can be irritating)
  • Baking soda
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) of distilled or boiled water

Directions

  • Mix 3 heaping teaspoons of salt with 1 rounded teaspoon of baking soda and store in a small Ziplock bag.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of the mixture to 8 ounces (1 cup) of lukewarm distilled or boiled water. Use less to make a less concentrated salt solution if burning or stinging is experienced.

Application

Using a soft rubber ear bulb syringe, infant nasal bulb or a commercial nasal saline rinse bottle from your drug store, use the rinse by following these steps:

  • Draw up 8 oounces of the saline solution. Tilt your head downward over a sink (or in the shower) and rotate to the left. Squeeze half of the solution gently into the right (top) nostril. Breathe through your mouth. In a few seconds the solution should come out through your left nostril. Repeat the process on the other side.
  • Blow your nose very gently to prevent the solution from going into your ear and causing discomfort.  If water goes into your ears, it is ok.  The discomfort should resolve in a short time.
  • If you are using other nasal medications, be sure you do not use it right before irrigating your sinuses – it will rinse the medication out.  Use other nasal medication at least 30 minutes after irrigating.

As with any medical product, be sure to speak to your doctor about using sinus rinses and stop using if you experience pain, nosebleeds or other problems.

Are you looking for sinus relief? Schedule an appointment at the Baylor Sinus Center.

-By, Dr. Mas Takashima, associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine

Additional Resources

Dr. Takashima offers 10 tips to avoiding sinus infections

Headaches? They could be caused by sinus pressure.

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