Deadly water? Sinus rinse warning from state health department

Tissues, cold tablets, and sinus sprays fill medicine cabinets during the winter. Americans spend big bucks on all these products to try to fight stuffy noses and sinus infections during the winter months. You might want to add another product to your arsenal – distilled water – after a woman died from using a neti pot with tap water.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals issued a warning for residents about the improper use of neti pots after a second death from a brain-eating ameba.

Sinus rinses like neti pots typically call for distilled water, but how often have you used it? I remember buying distilled water when I first started using a sinus rinse, but that didn’t last very long. It’s hard to pour into the container without a lot of spillage, and I didn’t notice a difference between regular tap and distilled water. Now, I may be rethinking that choice after deaths from using non-distilled water.

A 51-year-old Louisiana woman died after using tap water to irrigate her sinuses. She was infected with a deadly ameba. In June, a 20-year-old Louisiana man died under the same circumstances according to that state’s health department.

The ameba is called Naegleria fowleri. It’s usually found in freshwater lakes and rivers and infects people when they swim or dive. However. health experts say it’s also found in swimming pool water that doesn’t have enough chlorine in it and tap water heated below 116.6 degrees Farenheit. In rare cases, when that water is used to irrigate your nose you can get the infection. You can’t get this infection from drinking the water.

“If you are irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses, for example, by using a neti pot, use distilled, sterile or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution,” said Louisiana State Epidemiologist, Dr. Raoult Ratard.  “Tap water is safe for drinking, but not for irrigating your nose.”

Again, this is rare. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said from 2010 to 2010, there were only 32 infections in the U.S. The vast majority were infected from recreational water. Only two were infected from water from a geothermal drinking water supply.

When infected, your brain tissue is destroyed. Symptoms like a headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck may not appear for up to seven days. Eventually, you may become confused, lack attention, loss of balance, seizures, and hallucinations. Death can occur within one to 12 days.

While rare, it brings up an interesting topic for debate. Will you continue to pinch your pennies and use the water you already pay for in your tap or will you buy distilled water at the store to use with your next sinus rinse? Weigh in by clicking comment below.