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.


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