Yes, with a caveat: You need to boil or filter the tap water before use.
The danger associated with using water directly out of the tap? You could be exposing your nasal passage (gateway to the brain) to bacteria or protozoa that are rarely found in tap water. “Neti pot use directly instills material into the sinuses,” says Dr. Amesh Adalja, MD, a board-certified infectious disease physician. “This is different than the exposure that occurs during showering and other activities of daily life.”
This risk of contact between bug and brain is what lurks behind the frightening warnings about neti pots that litter online discussion boards. In fact, the use of neti pots with non-sterile tap water has been linked to a serious brain infection known as amoebic encephalitis, says Dr. Akash Goel, MD, a resident physician in internal medicine at Columbia University who is, himself, a user of a neti pot.
Following the death of two people in Louisiana who contracted this infection by using contaminated tap water in their neti pots, the FDA issued guidelines in 2011 regarding their safe use, says Goel.
Here are the FDA guideline highlights:
- You can kill pathogens by boiling your tap water for 3-5 minutes then letting it cool. You may store this water in a clean and closed container for up to 24 hours.
- You can remove pathogens with a home tap water filter that has a pore size of 1 micron or smaller
- You can save time by using commercially bottled water, which is purified. Make sure this is labeled as “sterile” or “distilled.”
It is important to use water of this same caliber to wash your neti pot after each use and to thoroughly dry the device. And don’t share your neti pot with anyone else, says Adalja.
If you’ve been using tap water in your magical sinus teapot all along, do not fret. Contraction of an infection from contaminated water would have resulted in near immediate symptoms, such as fever, headache, neck pain or vomiting. In absence of these symptoms, it’s not too late to change your ways.
TapGenes Take Away: A soothing flush of your sinuses can be accomplished with water from the kitchen faucet provided you boil or filter the water first.
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