Spring is here and with it comes blossoms on our trees, like the Elberta peach in my backyard. If you suffer from allergies, sinus infections or other ailments from pollen, dust or air pollution, the bright colors can also bring a hint of dread.
I’ve had allergies and asthma for as long as I can remember. In fact, I used to get weekly allergy shots and had the occasional night time trip to Valley Children’s Hospital for my asthma (thank goodness it was still in the middle of town back then).
Many years later, when someone told me they had seen a relatively easy way to help reduce sinus and allergy symptoms on The Oprah Winfrey Show, I ignored it. Like I’m going to pay attention to anything that was on Oprah! So I continued to suffer, take antibiotics a few times a year for sinus infections, and walk around in a Benadryl fog.
A few years ago the misery was just too much to take (sound familiar?). I looked up the video clip from Oprah and discovered the neti pot. I checked it out on WebMD and it looked like the real deal, so I went to the downtown Fresno CVS and bought a little plastic neti pot that came with some saline solution packets. Nervously, I tried it over my kitchen sink and… I instantly felt my sinuses cool down. I didn’t even realize how hot they’d felt until they suddenly felt cool relief.
I’ll spare you all of the details, but I became an instant believer and evangelist. One Christmas I even bought a neti pot kit for every member of my family. I took a picture of all of them in front of the tree holding their pots. Unfortunately that was a few phones ago and that picture is lost to posterity, so you’ll just have to picture the confused looks on their faces.
It’s rare that you can find something so easy to do and so inexpensive that can actually improve your life. We live in a valley that holds every bit of smoke, pollen, agricultural spray, and pollution in our air until the next rain. The least we can do is give our bodies a little inside rinse to keep us from having to fight off all of those invaders in our respiratory system.
When I mention neti pots to people who complain about their colds/allergies/sinus infections I often hear that they are worried about drowning or feeling like they are being waterboarded. If that’s how it feels, you’re doing it wrong. First, make sure you’re using the saline packets that you can buy at any drugstore or online. Plain water isn’t so soothing. And just let it flow gently—you won’t be tempted to give up any state secrets, I promise. You can get more creative with how you do it after awhile, just let it flow!
I think that the best way to use the neti pot is once or twice a day, whether you feel like you need it or not. It’s like brushing your teeth; it doesn’t really help to wait until you get a cavity. Think of it as giving your body a break (or a breather if you prefer puns). I mentioned to my doctor, Karen Hansen-Smith, that I was using a neti pot and she was very encouraging. She added the advice that if I was starting to feel like my allergies were getting worse or that I could feel a sinus infection coming on to use it more frequently, as many times a day as I needed. She also recommended that I breathe steam for 10 minutes beforehand to get things loosened up (I’m trying to be delicate here).
So let’s stop the suffering! We can’t clean up our air overnight, but we can help get rid of some of the stuff we breathe in from it. And if you tried it once and didn’t like it, here’s my advice: get over it! Maybe you need a couple of times of practice, but the reward is worth the diligence.
For less than $20 you can feel better. That means more energy, fewer doctor bills and visits, and no need for those gut biome-killing antibiotics (I haven’t had a sinus infection in years!).
I should probably put up some kind of disclaimer about not being a doctor or to check with a health professional, but then again, Oprah recommended it! (Yes, you’ll read online about a guy in Louisiana who snorted swamp water and got a brain-eating bacteria, so I’d follow the directions about using clean water.)