You may have heard about the health benefits of a sinus rinse -- how it can keep your nose healthy and prevent sinus problems. But what is it?

In its most basic form, a sinus rinse is salt water in a squeeze bottle or teapot that gets applied to the sinuses. In recent years, some advancements have been made to the humble sinus rinse, such as adding steroids or antibiotics to sinus rinse kits. But most of the time, it's as simple as salt and water, introduced into the nasal cavities where the sinuses drain from the cavities to the nose.

You can prepare a sinus rinse at home, using a recipe of 2 teaspoons salt (preferably pickling or kosher salt) and 8 oz water (preferably distilled, for purity's sake). To apply a sinus rinse, many people use a Neti Pot, or you can purchase a sinus rinse kit at most pharmacies or grocery stores. The most common sinus rinse kit is the NeilMed rinse bottle, which many ENT doctors prefer.

When to Use a Sinus Rinse

When should you use a sinus rinse? The truth is, everyone stands to benefit by using a sinus rinse -- it just makes your nose healthier. It clears out pollutants, environmental allergens, and dried mucus. There are no drawbacks, and the health effects are proven and measurable.

Realistically, the best time for a sinus rinse is when you know you have a cold or a sinus infection. Done properly, a sinus rinse is a simple, naturopathic way to help the body heal without antibiotics.

Who stands to benefit most from a sinus rinse?

  • People who suffer from recurrent sinus infections. Frequent sufferers of sinus infections should apply sinus rinses both when sick and healthy, to keep the sinus ossia open.
  • People who are highly allergic, to keep allergies from building up in the nose. The longer allergens stay in the nose, the worse the nose will feel. Sinus rinses will help clear them out more often.
  • Patients who get lots of colds.
  • Patients who have had nasal surgery. Applying sinus rinses tends to improve results after surgery.

Read More: Should I Call Out Of Work With A Sinus Infection?

Preventing Problems

We've already talked about how a sinus rinse can help address sinus infections without having to resort to antibiotics. But the health benefits of a saline rinse go even further than that. Almost all cases of bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia start with nasal congestion and blockages.

Applying a sinus rinse on a daily or regular basis can help keep inflammation down and stop the respiratory "domino effect." In short, using a sinus rinse could help stop a simple nasal blockage from becoming something more serious.

Sinus Rinse Tips

  • For your own safety, use distilled or previously boiled water, not straight tap water.
  • Don't squeeze the bottle too hard or too quickly.
  • Don't squeeze the nostrils when applying the sinus rinse.
  • Give it time and let it drip afterward, and don't blow your nose right away after a sinus rinse.

When to See a Doctor

In some cases, a sinus rinse may not be the best choice, such as when a patient has a bad septal deviation, has suffered recent nasal trauma, or has a nasal polyp. In these cases, it's best to consult a doctor or specialist instead of doing it on your own. A doctor can also instruct you on how best to use your rinse bottle or Neti Pot if you're having trouble.

Among the exciting advances happening in medical science is the inclusion of additional medication in sinus rinses. Topical steroids, anti-fungal treatments, and other medicine help doctors treat sino-nasal infections topically. This is a safe, effective, cutting-edge way to treat sinus infections without the side effects of pills, and more importantly, without the risk of antibiotic resistance. These treatments are not available at home or in over-the-counter sinus rinse kits. You should work with an ENT doctor to find out if these treatments are right for you.

If you have questions about using a sinus rinse or are suffering from a sinus infection, contact Virginia ENT today to make an appointment and discuss treatment options.