Shaped like a tiny teapot or pitcher, a neti pot is device used to rinse out nasal sinuses. You fill the pot with distilled water or saline solution, tilt your head at about a 45-degree angle over the sink, pour water in one nostril and let it drain back out the other nostril. This type of nasal irrigation has been used for hundreds of years in India to relieve nasal congestion, symptoms of colds or allergies, or sinus pain. Modern-day physicians say that the technique is very effective for some people.
A dozen years ago, you would have had to hunt pretty hard to find a neti pot, but they have become so popular that you can find them in just about any chain drugstore. People are starting to cut safety corners… and two people died from using neti pots this year.
According to an article in The Los Angeles Times, both deaths occurred in Louisiana after users—a 20-year-old man and a 51-year-old woman—used tap water instead of distilled water. The tap water contained the “brain-eating” Naegleria fowler amoeba.
“Tap water is safe for drinking, but not for irrigating your nose,” Louisiana’s state epidemiologist, Dr. Raoult Ratard, said in a statement. He urged those who want to rinse their sinuses to use distilled, sterile or previously boiled water, and to rinse their neti pot (or other irrigation device) after each use and allow it to air dry.
The amoeba lives in freshwater in southern United States. Although infections are rare, they typically happen when someone jumps into a lake and water containing the nasty bug goes up the nose. From inside the nose, it’s a quick trip to the brain where the infection can have devastating consequences.
Although most neti pots come with instructions for use, many people let them slide once in awhile or ignore them completely. These deaths make the message very clear: Don’t put tap water up your nose. If you’re ever tempted, just remember the brain-eating amoeba and think again.
To read the full article in The Los Angeles Times, click here: Neti pot danger