Soothing remedy is blast from past(Sinus Pressure Relief)

By Jeff Raymond
Staff Writer
The latest craze in allergy relief is also one of the oldest.

Sinus rinsing is a tradition of Indian medicine and is used to prepare for yoga. Although nasal irrigation devices have been sold in the US for decades, their use received a boost when Oprah Winfrey discussed them on her talk show nearly a year ago.

Oklahoma City resident Tanna Fried, like many others, can thank Oprah for her introduction to the neti pot.

The small containers, which resemble Aladdin's lamp, are filled with salt water and inserted into a nostril.

With the right angle, a stream of water flows out the other nostril, clearing the Sinuses of the mucus and irritants that can make breathing hard and lead to infection.

A natural remedy
When Fried was pregnant a year ago, she couldn't do anything about her runny nose and other Sinus problems.

"Being pregnant, you can't take anything other than Tylenol,” she said.

Her obstetrician-gynecologist recommended she use a saline rinse. It didn't help much. Neither did Zyrtec or Flonase nasal spray.

The neti pot did.

Stores were sold out, so she bought a plastic neti pot online from SinuCleanse.

The firm's products are available in many pharmacies and online. Neti pots typically cost less than $20 and are available in plastic, ceramic and metal.

"I don't use it as much as I should, but during that time it was amazing,” she said.

Fried, 33, is a neti pot convert but understands the reluctance people may have to doing something that doesn't come naturally.

"It sounds like a bad fraternity beer bong trick,” she said.

The equivalent of jumping into a swimming pool while leaning over a sink takes some getting used to. People think Fried is crazy when she tells them about it.

But, she said, "It's amazing after you use it, you go around and you're like, ‘Wow, I can really smell.'”

The trick, she said, is to have the right salt concentration and lukewarm water.

"I do think it has helped a lot,” she said. "It's going directly to the source.”

What do doctors think?
Dr. John Bozalis, an allergist with the Oklahoma Allergy and Asthma Clinic, regularly recommends his patients try the nasal flush. He understands their reluctance but assures them it's safe.

"It's probably one of the most underappreciated and underutilized treatments,” he said.

Mary Ann O'Dell, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for Akin's Natural Food Markets, said that while pills outsell neti pots by quite a margin, Sinus sufferers are catching on to alternative remedies.

"I can tell you that they're definitely increasing in popularity,” she said. "We sell significantly more now than we did two or three years ago.”

O'Dell said her daughter's doctor recommended she use a saline spray — a lower-volume irrigation than the neti pot.

Unlike decongestants, which relieve congestion by reducing blood flow to swollen mucous membranes, irrigation and rinsing simply clean out the Sinuses.

O'Dell said "incredibly difficult” allergy seasons in recent years have increased awareness of neti pots and rinses.

O'Dell teaches allergy seminars and has heard people swear by their new routine of daily nose rinses.

"You're keeping your nose clear of a lot of the pollens and things that attack Sinuses and cause the reaction,” she said of congestion and Sinus infections.

Bozalis said antibiotics are "grossly overprescribed” for inflammation of the Sinuses. Inflammation accompanies infection but is possible without infection.

"The function of mucous membranes is to make mucus. When they get inflamed they make more mucus,” he said.

If mucus is obstructed and backs up, infection is possible. Irrigation is effective at relieving this build-up, he said.

Those with a deviated septum — or the wall that separates the nasal cavities is significantly off-center — can't use nasal irrigation.

In a study published in the December 2002 issue of the Journal of Family Practice, researchers found a group that regularly flushed their Sinuses used fewer antibiotics, had fewer symptoms of Sinus problems and had a better quality of life.