During the winter months – in fact, any time when the air is very dry – it’s important to keep your nasal passages moist. A simple home remedy is to sniff salt solution into both nostrils 2-4 times a day.
To prepare an effective homemade solution, add ½ teaspoon of table salt and ½ a teaspoon if baking soda into one cup of distilled water. If using tap water, make sure to sterilize it through boiling and then allow it to cool. Stir the cool water until the salt and baking soda dissolves completely.
To apply, fill a squeeze bottle with the saline solution. Direct the saline solution stream toward the back of your head (not toward the top). The saline wash should go through the nose and out the mouth or other nostril. Repeat the process several times a day for best results.
Alternatively, you can buy ready-prepared nasal saline products – such as Ocean®, Simply Saline® or generic equivalents – from a drug store. As with the home solution, these products wash away mucus from the membranous lining of nasal passages.
They also help by shrinking any swollen parts of the nasal passage. If this is not done, mucus and the swollen membranes may block openings of the sinuses into the nasal passages. Sinusitis often ensues when nasal bacteria infect the mucus, which can no longer drain from the blocked sinus. Treatment of sinusitis (rather than prevention) often requires the use of antibiotics.
Some doctors are not enthusiastic about nasal saline irrigation since researchers found it does not significantly reduce the incidence of colds. However, do not confuse the common cold with sinusitis. Viruses cause colds, while sinusitis is a bacterial-induced complication of some colds.
Irrigation of the nasal passages with saline cannot kill viruses or bacteria. However, it does help to reduce the incidence of sinusitis in people with a tendency to develop this common complication.
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