Saline Irrigation for Sinuses – Fact or Full of Snot?

Oh, thank you U.S. researchers, for your cleverness and sense of humor.  Thank you for having the courage to shoot salt water up the noses of 121 adults with chronic nasal and sinus symptoms (stuffiness, congestion, or thick/ discolored nasal discharge).   Thanks for referring to part of the procedure as a large volume nasal irrigation flowed into the nostril and drained out the mouth.  Well, maybe not so many thanks for that as I am actually choking in the back of my throat a little just thinking about a large volume of anything being instilled into my nostril and drained out my mouth.  Echh.

The patients in this study were evaluated using a previously validated instrument, a 20-item Sino-Nasal Outcome Test.  Yes, this tool is called…are you ready…the SNOT-20.  (Thanks for, without a doubt, my favorite named clinical measurement tool to date).  Interestingly, this study showed SNOT scores improved approximately twice as much on average in the irrigation group versus the group that just had regular old saline spray.  There were significant changes at both 4 and 8 weeks.

Bottom line: Nasal irrigation using a stream of normal saline, is more effective in decreasing general nasal or sinus symptoms than saline spray. The saline can be made at home, purchased as a kit, or administered using a neti pot (online videos in places like YouTube will have demos of this).

I know you’re excited but I feel it is my duty to warn you not to go randomly shooting large volumes of liquid up your nose and out your mouth at home without at least doing a smidge of research first.


Source: Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2007 Nov;133(11):1115-20

Dr. Brett Kinsler writes RochesterChiro, the skeptical chiropractor in Rochester, NY.


  1. Irv Salisbury said,

    November 2, 2008 at 3:12 am

    Maybe it is a placebo effect, but 5 years ago I started using the Grossan Nasal Irrigator at the first sign of any cold or sinus symptoms with my body. Prior to this, I would have at least 2-3 sinus infections per year that would then often migrate to my lungs. (This had plagued me for the previous 10 years of my life) I have not had a sinus infection in 5 years since using this at the first sign of a cold. Even if it is a placebo effect, I’ll take it over the alternative.

    For what its worth, nothing comes out of your mouth. As the picture shows, it goes in one nostril and out the other. About 15-20 minutes later your sinuses drain whatever is in them. Afterwards, I often feel significantly better after just one treatment.

    So, call me a big believer in this. My first son was also getting at least 1 nasal infection his first 5 years of being alive, but now if he is having considerable stuffiness, one treatment on a very gentle setting stops him from going to the doctor for his usual round of antibiotics.

  2. omar ayman abusaad said,

    June 1, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    it seems good ……………….

    i know about it from an email sent by my friend ………….

    i will buy it and try it …………

    may my sufferings will stop …………..

  3. Jennifer said,

    August 1, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    It’s not a placebo effect, it’s just science. Thin the mucas and the bacteria can’t continue to multiply.

  4. September 3, 2009 at 9:38 am

    […] is that the research generally scores patient symptoms using my favorite clinical instrument:  the SNOT – 20 which I discussed in a previous […]

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