Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sinus Irrigation

Some portions of this post may be gross but it was prompted by the sinus infection that I currently have.  Having a sinus infection or allergic rhinitis while your dealing with the aftermath of some disaster is additional stress you won’t need.

Simply described, sinus irrigation is the process of flushing out your sinuses with an isotonic solution of water and salts.  The goals of doing so are to remove extra mucus, allergens, bacteria, etc.  Under normal circumstances your body does this naturally by producing mucus (about a liter per day), which captures airborne contaminants, which you then get rid of by either blowing your nose or swallowing it.  Yummy.

However, when we get sick or have an allergic reaction (e.g., to ragweed or dust) the natural process isn’t enough to clear our sinuses.  Over the counter medications can help, but decongestant sprays like Afrin carry the risk of easily getting addicted to them (BTDT).

Neti pots have been used for nasal irrigation for centuries in India, but the first time I read of sinus irrigation was on Jerry Pournelle’s The View From Chaos Manor.  One summer about six years ago I decided to give it a try, after a particularly bad allergy attack that my prescription antihistamine couldn’t knock out.

 The first kit I picked up was by Ayr.  It worked well and sold me on the concept.  It brought me some additional relief from my allergies.  I’m now using a kit from Neilmed.

After trying it for my allergies, the next time I got a sinus infection I used the rinse to see if it would help.  In my experience it does.  Instead of having a head filled with a mixture of bacteria and snot, the rinse flushes out the infectious brew, which seems to promote healing.  We also now use saline rinses on our daughters when they get head colds and sinus infections.  It provides them with some relief.

To make my rinse solution, I like the Neilmed packets mixed with tapwater.  If your tapwater isn’t sufficiently clean, use distilled water.  You do not want to introduce any irritants or pathogens into your sinuses, you’re trying to flush that stuff out.

The results people get from sinus irrigation varies.  I find it helps both my allergies and sinus infections.  I still need to use a prescription antihistamine with a decongestant much of the year.  Other people have reported better results, while a few find that it doesn’t help, much at all.  It is something you should consider for the medical part of your preps.