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Saltwater Washes (Nasal Saline Lavage or Irrigation) for Sinusitis

Topic Overview

Saltwater washes (saline lavage or irrigation) help keep the nasal passages open by washing out thick or dried mucus. They can also help improve the function of cilia that help clear the sinuses. This can help prevent the spread of infection to the other sinuses and reduce postnasal drip. It also can make the nose feel more comfortable by keeping the mucous membranes moist.

You can buy saline nose drops at a pharmacy, or you can make your own saline solution:

  • Add 1 cup (240 mL) distilled water to a clean container. If you use tap water, boil it first to sterilize it, and then let it cool until it is lukewarm.
  • Add 0.5 tsp (2.5 g) salt to the water.
  • Add 0.5 tsp (2.5 g) baking soda.

You can store homemade saline solution at room temperature for 3 days.

To use homemade saline solution as a nasal wash:

  • Fill a large medical syringe, squeeze bottle, or nasal cleansing pot (such as a Neti Pot) with the saline solution, insert the tip into your nostril, and squeeze gently.
  • Aim the stream of saline solution toward the back of your head, not toward the top.
  • The saline wash should go through the nose and out the mouth or the other side of the nose.
  • Blow your nose gently after the saline wash unless your doctor has told you not to blow your nose.
  • Repeat several times every day.
  • Clean the syringe or bottle after each use.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Do your saline wash before you use your other nasal medicines. The wash will help your sinuses absorb the medicine.
  • You can warm the saline solution a little. But make sure it's not hot.
  • The saline wash may cause a burning feeling in your nose the first few times you use it. Most people get used to the wash after a few times.

Credits

Current as of: December 2, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Patrice Burgess MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Donald R. Mintz MD - Otolaryngology

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