The Low-Down on Nasal Irrigation

Written by Leanna Serras

Allergies and sinus problems can cause headaches, earaches, stuffiness, colds, and irritation from smells and scents like smoke and fragrances. Normally, sinus cavities and nasal passages in the nose are kept free of mucus by cilia, projections that look like little hairs. Cilia wave back and forth, allowing mucus to be pushed out by blowing the nose. For people with allergies and chronic sinus problems, the cilia move more slowly, so just blowing the nose is not enough to clear mucus. Many people are able to find relief through nasal irrigation.

There are various devices used for nasal irrigation, and it's easy to perform nasal irrigation at home. Irrigation devices work in various ways depending on the design, but accomplish the same goal. By injecting a saline solution into the nose, they thin out mucus, making it easier to remove from the nose and sinuses. Saline solutions are available commercially, or can be made by mixing a teaspoon of salt or sea salt in a cup of warm water. A pinch of baking soda can be added to reduce burning.

Another nasal irrigation that can be used to clear a stuffy nose is a bulb syringe. This is the most popular method to use with babies, as the syringe is small enough for their nasal passages and is generally gentle. To use a bulb syringe, place the syringe in the fluid and squeeze the bulb to fill it with fluid. Place one or two drops in each of the baby's nostril. Remove the syringe and squeeze out any excess solution. Next, squeeze the bulb to create a vacuum, and then gently place in baby's nose to suck out mucus. After cleaning out mucus, repeat on other nostril. While not enjoyable, this procedure is painless and should provide successful results.

Other products like the SinuPulse use pulsating action to irrigate the nasal passages. These require electric or battery power; and are placed in the nostrils to deliver solution to the nasal cavities.

For visual demonstrations on how to use nasal irrigation devices, see:

For more information, visit the following sites: