All About Sinus Irrigation

Pulsatile Nasal Irrigation FAQs

What is nasal irrigation?

Nasal irrigation is basically the process of gently cleansing your nasal passages and sinuses with a fluid. When you have a horrible head cold, or your nose is running with allergies, you’ve probably wished you could just flush your sinuses and nasal passages somehow. Well, doctors have done this for many years, it used to be called a “Proetz machine”, and it forced a solution of salty water into the nose to flush the sinuses. Today there are two devices called a Neti Pot and a Neomed irrigator. The trouble with these older devices is they often provided only a temporary, symptomatic relief. On the other hand, ancient yogies seemed to have some success with curing their colds and sinus problems by snorting salt water rhythmically. In the late 60’s Harold Grossan M.D. was experimenting with different ways of irrigating, and measuring the effect on health, and he found that irrigating with a stream of water which varied rhythmically, or pulsated, actually improved the body’s ability to fight infection and get heal. It wasn’t just a temporary relief. He measured improvement in the action of the nasal cilia, the body’s principle disease-fighting mechanism in the sinuses. This was the big breakthrough for nasal irrigation.

Pulsatile nasal irrigation is now used by thousands of doctors and tens of thousands of patients around the world. There are dozens of journals and articles documenting the benefits of this technology.

Will it hurt, or make me feel like I’m drowning?

NEVER put any fluid in your nose without a doctor’s instructions. If you get fresh water in your nose, it will indeed be painful and somewhat harmful. This is because the delicate membranes of your nose and sinuses need their own precise salty environment, called an “isotonic” environment or else the membrane doesn’t work right and registers pain. However, the correct saline mixture produces NO discomfort, and in fact a warm saline solution cleansing your blocked sinuses is quite pleasant.

Does it matter how I do it?

Yes, it does matter. As with the “Proetz machine” and the like, just running some saline water through your nose, doesn’t really work. While simply moisturizing your nose and sinuses with saline can be beneficial, the method that shows real improvement in the body’s ability to fight off disease and heal is afforded by pulsatile nasal irrigation. When using the yogic rhythmic snorting method, one would have to practice until just the right pressure and rhythm were achieved, and one would have to learn to mix the saline to the exact specifications. It would be a lot of work, impractical for most people. Other methods that do not provide pulsation are inferior. I have a number of patients that come to me and don’t want to try irrigation because they used some other method such as the Netti or Neti Pot or similar devices, and had little benefit. Pulsatile irrigation is different! The pulsation action is essential to restoring your body’s defenses, and the nasal and sinus cilia to healthy function. Patient’s who used the Neti Pot and other methods also complained of a lot of dripping and mess on the clothes. With the sinus irrigator you control the flow of saline through a convenient tip which prevents spills. As a result there is no mess. Other methods rely on pressure alone to remove blockage; too much pressure can be very harmful. Only a pulsatile irrigation device that is purpose-built for nasal and sinus irrigation should be used in the sinuses and nasal passages.

All saline powders and similar mixes are NOT the same.

The best solution to use is not simply isotonic saline but an enhanced nasal/sinus moisturizing formula that is more complex, one that is more gentle than pure saline and has other ingredients to make it an improved nasal and sinus moisturizer. Always avoid saline moisturizers and sprays containing preservatives or other additives.

Did you know that pulsatile irrigation can prevent colds?

If you’re an allergy or sinus sufferer I hope you start irrigating with pulsatile irrigation so you can get better right away*! By providing a healthier sinus environment you can reduce your chances of getting colds, and you can decrease your allergy symptoms.

Allergies – I’ve Tried Everything

“I have had allergy tests and shots, cortisone nasal sprays, antihistamine samples including Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, etc and nothing helps. My nose is plugged and I am miserable for weeks at a time. What can I do ?”


Your problem could be:

  • Anxiety reinforcement
  • Exhaustion
  • Exposure to spicy food and ice drinks.
  • Low thyroid condition.
  • An infected sinus.

Sounds like you have a situation of exhaustion. The body makes its own cortisone-like products, but after sneezing and hacking for so long, the natural body products are simply exhausted and therefore nothing works.

Another factor may be one of anxiety reinforcing your symptoms. The more you sneeze, the more anxious and nervous you get, the more you sneeze, and the more anxious you get. It’s important to break the anxiety reinforcement cycle. Bed rest, an antihistamine such as Benadryl, which helps you to rest, is good, or the doctor may want to prescribe a mood elevator drug to help break the cycle.

Another cause of failure is in the diet. Things that prolong an allergy are spicy foods like peppers, chili, hot sauces. Ice drinks make the allergy worse. Switch to hot tea. Avoid all spices. Is the bedroom dust-proofed? Remove dust makers, filter the hot air furnace, remove the pets from the bedroom. Hot tea before getting out of bed in the morning can also be helpful.

If you or your doctor suspect a food allergy, try eating everything cooked or canned – cooking the food breaks down the complex proteins and makes them less allergenic. Try limiting your diet to the foods that you think are “safe” and then add new foods once a week.

There may be a minimal infection that causes a lot of allergy symptoms. Many patients report excellent relief of allergy symptoms using pulsatile irrigation. Pulsatile irrigation can be performed at home by yourself, and clears the infection and removes pollen and dust products from the nose and sinuses*. Just as you clean your hands after handling dirt, allergy patients should use the irrigator to wash out pollen and dust after exposure. In Los Angeles, my patients irrigate to wash out their sinuses after a visit to the downtown smoggy area.

*Your results may vary.

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