Nasal irrigation

Nasal irrigation may ease allergy symptoms

If you often suffer from sneezing, a runny or congested nose because of your allergy, it could be worth the effort to try a nasal wash with saline solution (sodium chloride solution). Cleansing your nose with saline solution is an old tradition that may ease your symptoms.

When you are allergic, irritating substances such as pollen, allergens from pets or dust mites, stick to the mucous membrane of the nose. The nose is not just our organ for smell, it also helps to filter, moisturise and heat the air we are breathing in. With nasal cleansing the allergens are washed away from the mucous membrane and cilia of the nose and that reduces the allergic reaction. Some studies suggest that the sodium chloride has anti-inflammatory effect.

It is not possible to cure allergies with nasal irrigation but many people experience a higher quality of life and less problems thanks to it. Cleansing your nose has minimal risk as long as the saline solution is not too strong, and is often recommended by doctors as a complement to allergy medication.

How is a nasal wash performed?

As you rinse your nose, the water flows from one nostril to the other through a passage in the wall separating the nostrils from each other. The saline solution is easily prepared and nasal wash devices, to insert in the nostril, are available in pharmacies. There are also several different nose cleansing pots made of clay that can be bought online. In order for the mucous membranes of the nose to not get irritated, the water should contain the same level of salt as your body, around 0.9%. That is achieved by mixing a teaspoon of table salt with 500ml of tap water. For your comfort - use water which is the same temperature as your body.

This is how you do it:

  1. Mix saline solution in the nose cleansing pot and make sure that the salt is dissolving
  2. Place yourself by a sink and insert the spout in one of your nostrils
  3. Bend your head and upper body a bit to the side and let the pot follow. Breath through your mouth and let the water flow from one nostril to the other
  4. When about half of the water has flowed through, blow your nose through the washed nostril. Exhale carefully with intervals, not hard enough for the eardrum to bulge
  5. Repeat the procedure on the other nostril

When should I do a nasal wash?

Some people cleanse their noses almost every day as a preventive measure, while others only do it when they are experiencing problems. If hayfever symptoms are troublesome at night, it may be good to do a nasal cleansing before going to bed. If you are cleansing your nose regularly it is best to use clean salt without additional substances, such as iodine. In addition, ready mixed drops of saline solution and saline solution spray are available in pharmacies.

Nasal cleansing may help ease both allergic runny nose and common colds. Allergens and bacteria are in this way washed away and the mucous membrane of the nose is rehydrated. Even people working in dusty or smoky environments may find nasal cleansing with saline solution useful. There are no known side effects from nasal cleansing, but if you have inflamed ears or other ear problems it is best to talk with a doctor before you do it. You should also check with a doctor before using nasal cleansing on your child.

Saline solution wash does not replace traditional allergy treatments like nasal spray, but may very well be used as a complement to it. Cleanse your nose before using the spray, so that the mucous membrane is clean when you do it. It is a good idea to start cleansing your nose before your problems have become too big - that is when it will be the most effective.


UK/GEN/15/0057e                         Date of preparation: December 2015 

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