sinus rinse warningSinus rinses are a popular treatment option for allergy and sinus sufferers. Most people rinse with tap water, but why health officials say that’s dangerous.

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Sinus rinse danger

Sinus rinses are a great way to clear your nose. You can use a Neti Pot or a spray bottle sinus rinse. Either way, the directions tell you to use distilled water. However, very few people use distilled water. It’s easier to fill the bottle or pot with tap water.

The manufacturers recommend distilled water for a reason. There is the slight chance for contamination of tap water. Spraying those contaminants up your nasal passages can be a deadly mix. It’s rare something will happen which is why so many people just use tap water. However, the risk is real.



Deaths from improper use of Neti Pot

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals issued a sinus rinse warning. There’s concern people are using the Neti Pot improperly. Two people died from a brain-eating ameba.

A 51-year-old Louisiana woman died after using tap water to irrigate her sinuses in 2011. A deadly ameba infected the woman. Earlier in that year, a 20-year-old Louisiana man died under the same circumstances according to that state’s health department.

Freshwater lakes and rivers have the ameba Naegleria fowleri. Swimming and diving in infected water is dangerous. Even swimming pool water is dangerous if it doesn’t have enough chlorine. Tap water heated below 116.6 degrees Fahrenheit can also have the ameba. In rare cases, you can become infected when you use contaminated tap water to irrigate your nose.

“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. There were only 32 infections in the U.S. from 2001 to 2010, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

The majority of people are infected from activities in recreational water. Water from a geothermal drinking supply caused only two infections.

Brain tissue is destroyed when you are infected with the ameba. 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 1 to 12 days.

sinus rinse tap water health concernHow to protect yourself

The FDA says the directions on many sinus devices are misleading, contradictory, or lack guidelines. For example, the government agency says some manufacturers suggest you don’t use tap water. However, the packaging or online videos show tap water.

The FDA and CDC also issued sinus rinse warnings. If you don’t want to buy distilled water, boil tap water. Let it boil for at least one minute. Cool it. Then you can use it. If you live at an elevation above 6,500 feet, boil the water for 3 minutes.

Your other option is to use a filter. Make sure the label reads “NSF 53” or “NSF 58”. The CDC says filter labels that say “absolute pore size or 1 micron or smaller” are also effective.

Lastly, you can buy distilled or sterile water from the store.

While rare, this brain eating ameba is scary.

Will you continue to use tap water for sinus rinses?