NOTE: I am not a doctor and this post is simply me relating my personal experiences. Consult with your doctor before making any health-related decisions or taking any health-related actions.
Update 10/12/2008 – It has now been TWO YEARS since I’ve had any type of cold, flu, sinus infection, or sore/scratchy throat. Two years, clean as a whistle, and it’s due almost completely to using the neti pot whenever I feel a tickle/cough coming on, plus using it once a month regardless. Original article is below, from 12/2/2007.
Starting in my mid-20’s (I’m mid-40’s now) I began having recurring respiratory issues. I considered them to be “colds”, as I was coughing and stuffy with a scratchy throat. A few times it was bad enough for me to drag myself to the doctor. Twice it developed into bronchitis. But, in general, I’d do the Dayquil/Nyquil shuffle for 2-10 days and slog through it as productively as possible. These events would occur anywhere from 2-6 times per year, with varying intensity.
About a year ago it happened again and I decided that I’d leave my “cold” untreated and see what happened, as I had grown tired of dosing myself with potions. Predictably, it got worse and worse, and then one morning I woke up and found that all of my upper-teeth were aching and sore. Some quick web research revealed that this was highly indicitave of a sinus infection (note that none of my previous doctor visits had ever included the diagnosis of a sinus infection, acute sinusitis, chronic sinusitis, etc).
I went to the doc and got some prescription meds that helped knock it out. The silver lining, however, was that I finally understood that I was getting sinus infections and not “colds”. Bad on me for not figuring it out sooner, but now my enemy had a name – “sinus infection”.
I’m a fairly logical and pragmatic fellow and I’m not usually easily fooled by hype or marketing or anecdotal evidence. However, the more I read about the use of neti pots, the more it sounded logical and intriguing. For those unfamiliar, a neti pot looks kind of like a small plastic or ceramic teapot. You fill the pot with lukewarm water and salt, and then you stick the spout into one nostril, lean over, and pour the liquid into your sinus cavities, as it drains out the other nostril. You then switch positions and pour from the other nostril back to the original one. More info can be found here:
So I acquired a neti pot and salt/baking soda and gave it a try. The bottom line is that I have not had a sinus infection (or cold/flu) in the past year. I use the neti pot for nasal irrigation whenever I get a scratch/tickle/runny nose, and also use it once a month regardless. Note that there are people who claim to use it daily, but that just seems overboard, to me.
Since my 20’s I had not gone a year without at least a couple head-clogging, brain-slowing, ass-dragging sinus infections, so going a year without one is statistically significant (at least to me). If/when I get another one I’ll post here, but based on my experience thus far I don’t expect to, as each time I’ve gotten the old familiar tickle/scratch in my throat, the neti pot has knocked it right out.
I have found that the pre-mixed packets with salt and sodium bicarbonate work the best for me – they can be found (along with pots) on Amazon or elsewhere on the web.