Let me start by saying that I was probably born with some of the worst sinuses in history. For about as long as I can remember, I’ve been getting sinus infections at the drop of a hat. If there was too much pollen in the air, I’d get sick. If the temperature changed too dramatically, I’d get sick. If it got too humid outside, I’d get sick. If I went near any irritants like smoke or fumes, I could almost guarantee getting an infection shortly thereafter. It doesn’t help, either, that I live in one of the worst possible places for anyone with sinus or allergy issues. The weather here in Tallahassee is warm enough for plants to thrive, yet temperate enough for the seasons to produce pollen. Not to mention that it’s humid enough to make you want to put a bathing suit on before you go outside. Pretty much everyone in Tallanasty has sinus issues. Even people who don’t have any issues when they move here will eventually develop issues if they stay here long enough. Long time residents affectionately refer to the buildup of mucous in their heads as “the Tallahassee Crud”.
All that aside, my sinus issues aren’t nearly as bad as other people’s. I’ve been asked quite often how I manage to stay relatively clear-headed. When I tell them what allergy medicine I take, they quickly dismiss it, saying “I’ve already tried that”. Then I mention my neti pot, and more often than not, I’m met with some form of resistance. I don’t blame them, either. For years, I had people tout their neti pots to me as a miracle cure of sorts. Not only did I resist them, I found myself mocking them. To me, they vaguely resembled a cult trying to get me to join their ranks.
But late last Fall found me in a desperate situation. I was trying every cocktail of medication I could get my hands on, and I still couldn’t find anything that could keep me from getting these constant sinus infections. I was constantly plagued with either a runny nose, or worse yet, nasal passages so dry they’d be sore and so congested they would pain me for hours. I was meandering the aisles at Target, and saw a neti-esque sinus rinse system that pledged to give me relief. I felt like I had exhausted all of my other options. At this point, all I had to lose was the 15 or 20 dollars that I would spend on this kit. A small price to pay, I thought, if it works as well as these people say it does. I carefully read all of the packaging and all of the instructions, then made myself a promise. One week. I would humor these people for one week. If I didn’t get any better, I would happily declare the neti pot a debunked myth that I would promptly wave in front of every self-righteous hippie who promised me it would work.
The first day was hellacious. It felt like I was trying to waterboard myself. I was coughing and sputtering and choking, and then I spent the rest of the evening with water periodically leaking from my nostrils. The following morning, I had to coach myself in order to get through. Just get through it, I would think as I looked at myself in the mirror, this is supposed to help you feel better. That day, I was just as stuffy as ever, and began counting down the days until this trial was over. As the following days progressed, though, I began to get the hang of it. I found the right angle to tilt my head, and the right temperature to heat the water to. Better yet, I was actually starting to clear up. By the end of the week, I was easily inhaling and exhaling through my nose. I knew then that I’d have to declare myself a convert.
Just to be clear, I don’t use a proper neti pot, so much as a sinus rinse system that essentially accomplishes the same task. I would also not consider this rinse a miracle sure. I still have to take an antihistamine and I still get sinus infections when I’m not careful. That said, I have definitely seen an improvement. I still cough and sputter a bit when I rinse, but I’d say that the temporary discomfort is well worth the difference that it makes. For those of you with sinus issues, I’m sure you’ve had your moments when you wish you could reach into your head and just pull the blockage out yourself. Rinsing your sinuses is the closest I’ve ever come to doing that. I can’t help but celebrate a little when a dime-size yellow or brown chunk shows up in the sink. For those of you who don’t have to experience this ailment, I’d compare this rinse to douching before sex. It’s just one of those precautionary measures that, if done properly, you can take to make sure everything is as free and clear as possible. Yes, the initial thought of having water up your nose voluntarily seems ridiculous. But this is different than those times you get water up your nose at the beach or pool. The warm temperature helps give the water a more soothing effect, and my kit comes with salt packets that help give the water an ideal pH balance. Yes, it still takes getting used to, but on days when I feel stuffy, I actually look forward to when I get home so I can promptly flush out that dastardly clog.
So if you feel like you’ve exhausted all other options, or if you simply don’t want to spend your days in an antihistamine fog, I invite you to give the neti pot a try. It may not be a miracle sure, but it definitely helps.