Most of us have done saline nasal irrigation for our sinus congestion. It is very effective and shows quick relief. It is among the safest home remedies for nasal and sinus congestion that we all have heard of. But should we do it every day, even if there is no congestion? Can it prevent us from future infections? Or does doing it every day do nothing but worsen our nasal and sinus congestion instead of treating it?
Well, we know that overdoing anything can be harmful. Water which is the basis of all lives can also cause harm if taken more than required. So, I think if overdrinking water can be harmful, then overdoing anything can be harmful, including saline nasal irrigation.
What is saline nasal irrigation?
For people who don’t know about saline nasal irrigation, it is a traditional hygienic practice to keep the nasal area clean. It helps to remove all the dust, dirt, microbes, excess mucus and other foreign particles from the nose and sinuses.
A saline solution (salt mixed with water) is allowed to move in one nostril and let it drain from the other. This is generally done using a neti pot or squeeze bottle. It helps to get rid of all allergens, dust particles and other debris, which cause blockage in the nose and ensures easy breathing.
Saline nasal irrigation can also help to reduce the swelling and inflammation in the nose and sinuses. People with allergies, common cold, sinusitis and nasal polyps get benefits by doing saline nasal irrigation.
Doing saline nasal irrigation once or twice a day can be helpful during nasal or sinus congestion due to cold, sinusitis, allergies or nasal polyps. But including it on regular basis is not recommended.
So, let's see how overdoing saline nasal irrigation (neti kriya) can be harmful.
How is overdoing saline nasal irrigation or neti kriya harmful?
- Increased risk of infections:
Our nose is lined by mucus which acts as a protective layer. It contains mucin, which traps all the dust, dirt, germs, allergens and other foreign bodies and prevents them from entering our lungs.
Now doing saline nasal irrigation can help in flushing out these foreign substances and excess mucus when there is congestion in the nose and sinuses. But overdoing it will also remove the mucus that is lining our nose. Now that the protective layer is washed away, we become more prone to infections.
- Good bacteria from our nose are swiped off:
We know that our gut has good bacteria that help in digestion. Similarly, our nose is also lined with certain good bacteria. Apart from this, our mucus also contains some good bacteria, which prevents the occurrence of a cold, flu, sinus infection and allergies. Overdoing neti kriya will remove all these good bacteria from our nose and make us susceptible to various infections.
- Weakens immunity:
Our mucus contains antibodies in the form of antibodies to fight against infections. The major antibodies found in our mucous membrane are secretory immunoglobulin A, which mainly binds to micro-organisms and prevents them from entering into the sinuses or airways, thereby preventing infections. While doing saline nasal irrigation, these antibodies can get eliminated from our nose, making us prone to infections. This can be the reason for weakened immunity and frequent infections.
Saline nasal irrigation is an effective home remedy for reducing sinus and nasal congestion. It helps to keep the nose and sinuses clean and pollutant free. But doing it several times a day on daily basis can be harmful. It is necessary to know that everything in excess is harmful.
So, next time you are having nasal or sinus congestion and you are planning to do nasal irrigation, make sure you don't overdo it.
Also, if you are using tap water for nasal irrigation, boil and cool the water before using it. Directly using tap water (without boiling it) can cause further infection as it contains small amounts of bacteria and protozoa, including amoeba. Drinking tap water may not be harmful because our stomach acid can kill them, but these organisms can stay alive in our nose and may cause infections. A rare but deadly infection caused by Naegleria fowleri can be caused by using tap water for saline nasal irrigation.